St. Regis School staff member tests positive for coronavirus

| October 14, 2020 12:00 AM

By SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER

Mineral Independent

A St. Regis School District staff member has tested positive for coronavirus.

School Superintendent Joe Steele informed staff of the positive test in two emails last Thursday.

Steele told the Mineral Independent an initial positive test was confirmed. He said the classroom was in the secondary section of the school.

Steele also shared some good news in an email Sunday.

"I received word late this afternoon that none of our students who have been tested have showed up with a positive result," Steele wrote in the email. "The six close contacts are still out during their 14-day quarantine."

Steele wrote two other students were scheduled to be tested Monday and are currently quarantined through Thursday, Oct. 15, unless they get a negative test.

"At this point, we are looking good and will be open this week for elementary and secondary students," Steele wrote.

After last week's positive test, Steele explained what school officials did.

“We have provided the health department with class rosters and seating charts to determine close contacts. The health department considers a close contact as someone who is within six feet of the positive case for 15 minutes or longer. The seating chart will provide the health department which students are within the six foot radius,” Steele said.

"The health department will contact families of any student within the six foot radius for 15 minutes or longer," Steele said. "If you do not get a call from the health department in the next 24 hours, your student has not been identified as a close contact."

Also, St. Regis School will not have halftime Kindergarten classes Oct. 12-20. Next week is a short week due to the Montana Education Association training days Thursday and Friday.

Steele said the decision to cancel the class is out of an abundance of caution and to relieve concerns of those parents with students in the classroom.

The classroom teacher notified those parents regarding her older child being identified as a close contact and placed in quarantine. This information was released to her student’s parents out of respect for their safety and to allow them to make decisions based on their families’ needs.

The instructional paraprofessional who works in that class also has a child who was quarantined by county health this afternoon. Neither the teacher nor the paraprofessional have symptoms. Classes are expected to resume Oct. 21.

The Superintendent will continue to monitor the situation and maintain contact with the County Health Department throughout the weekend. In the meantime, the building will be cleaned per CDC protocols and ventilated periodically throughout the weekend.

"We are sterilizing and ventilating the building with both bleach solution and the electrostatic sprayer disinfectant. All commonly touched surfaces are being thoroughly cleaned. The building has been opened up to ventilate thoroughly as contagion has a higher rate with airborne germs," Steele said.

Steele said he could be contacted for those with questions.

"Please feel free to call the school if you have concerns," Steele said. "I will answer questions the best that I can while maintaining confidentiality of those who are close contacts or tested positive."

The school phone number is 406-649-2311.

Steele's email is jsteele@stregis.k12.mt.us

The school district was notified a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday, Oct. 8.

According to the Mineral County Health Department, the district’s staff and students were in contact with the staff member during the period of possible exposure. The staff member last worked in person-to-person contact with fellow students and staff at St. Regis School one day prior to the staff member’s diagnosis. The staff member has not been at the school since Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Steele wrote in the email if any staff or students are at risk of exposure, the Mineral County Health Department will be in contact with that person to determine a safe and appropriate course of action.

It is still recommended that any person who feels sick or ill, seek out their medical provider for specific instructions, according to Steele.

He said the school district is in contact with the county Health Department and reviewing the Centers for Disease Control guidance to complete cleaning the school and other related facilities.

Cleaning and ventilation of the classroom has already begun, and a thorough cleaning of all classrooms will occur.

“We cleared the classroom and cleaned it thoroughly,” Steele said. “We moved the students to the gym, then to the library for the next classes and it gave us time to clean the room.”

Steele said students were going to be back in the classroom by Thursday afternoon. He said the other steps taken by the school district include opening windows for increased ventilation, using HEPA air purifiers in classrooms, using electrostatic sanitizing nightly and sanitizing commonly touched areas nightly.

Steele said school would be in session Friday. St. Regis has been holding in-school learning Monday through Friday every other week and then Monday through Thursday.

Steele said school would be in session Monday, Tuesday and a half-day on Wednesday next week.

Steele said school officials will continue to monitor the situation and will provide further information if and when it becomes available.

Mineral County Health will provide the district guidance on the next steps to take.

The county has four active cases and is under the state’s mask directive. There are a total of seven with three others recovered, according to health department figures.

The county has received 1,142 tests and there are no current hospitalizations.

In Montana, the numbers continue to rise, particularly in neighboring Flathead and Missoula counties.

Missoula reported 102 new cases Thursday. Of the 1,233 total cases it has had, 503 are active.

In Flathead County, there were 98 new cases. Of its 1,681 total cases, there were 897 active, ranking it second in the state behind Yellowstone’s 1,225 actives.

In Columbia Falls at the Montana Veterans Home, state

Department of Public Health and Human Services officials announced Thursday one resident died due to COVID-19 related illness. The patient, a resident of Flathead County, died Saturday, Sept. 26.

This is the first COVID-19 related death at the facility. To protect the privacy of the deceased and their family, DPHHS will not release further information.

Overall, there were 615 new cases reported Thursday, bringing the active cases total to 5,824 in Montana. There are 263 people hospitalized and 197 deaths. Those who have recovered total 10,656.