Ashland City Schools’ COVID-19 contact tracing study working to safely keep kids in school


ASHLAND, Ohio (WJW) — One study is trying find out how COVID-19 spreads in schools and how protocols can adapt to keep children in school.

The goal of the evaluation is to see if children who come in close contact with an infected person need to stay home and miss school even if everyone was wearing masks correctly.

Ashland City Schools became involved on Nov. 10 when someone at the high school tested positive for COVID-19.

Usually, the 21 students who had contact with that person would quarantine for at least 10 days. But the affected students stayed in school and were tested twice a week for two weeks. And the board learned the results this week.

“As students were tested, I didn’t know what to expect and that first time I thought we were going to have some positives pop up and I’m surprised we didn’t,” Ashland City Schools administrator Tina Bickert said. “In fact, Dr. Wiegand who is our liaison from Ohio State ran some additional controls to make sure those tests were running appropriately.”

Study administrators hope to find out if mask wearing and other protocols can help keep an infected person from spreading the virus, which is something that many hope would keep kids in school.

“We had 21 students who were able to go through this negative, and they were able to stay in school for 10 days that they would have obviously been out” Bickert said.

The family of every child invoved in the study agreed to continue to send their chileren to school as long as they were tested and monitored.

But several people spoke out about this saying they believe that because of the potentially fatal nature of COVID-19 and the many unanswered questions still surrounding the virus, the study is putting other children at risk.

“[Having] a child who is not a part of the study, my child’s risk of contracting COVID-19 increases and you cannot tell me that it doesn’t, as the current science doesn’t tell us that that can’t happen. I did not consent to this,” high school parent Diane Bonfiglio said.

“Taking it home to their parents, a parent like me who is a cancer survivor who has a weakened immune system and every day when my husband and children come home from school I’m at more risk from our schools who have not, in my opinion, done enough to protect them from this virus,” high school parent Jamie Parsons told the board.

A second smaller group of Ashland students is also undergoing the increased testing and is being allowed to go to school.

A state health department spokesperson says the testing is going on in nine other districts around Ohio and they hope to have more results after thanksgiving. They also said every child who was affected by this could also have chosen to stay home for 14 days.

Out of 21 students in this first group, only one opted to go to school remotely.

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