Meadowbrook is closed through Friday; tracing has yet to yield answers.
Nine Meadowbrook Farms students from the same classroom tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon through the school district’s asymptomatic testing program. The positive results set of a flurry of activity, to reach parents so students could be picked up and to figure out who had been close contacts.
The school was closed Wednesday and will remain closed through Friday with students shifting to distance learning; students will be off next week anyway because of February break.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Principal Neil Marcaccio said there’s been no single activity or event identified as the cause of the large number of positives. This is by far the biggest virus outbreak in the school district.
“We were pretty shocked,” acknowledged Supt. Alexis Meyer. “We’ve asked the question – were the tests faulty? – and there’s no reason to think they were. There were many other students tested that day.”
Asymptomatic testing started a month ago and had not yielded very many positives until now. As of Feb. 2, only one staff member had tested positive out of 260 asymptomatic tests, and only three students had tested positive out of 1,108 tests run.
Students in pre-K through fifth grade are in contained pods – that is, they do not mix with other students while in the school building although they could be on a bus with students from other classrooms. According to Marcaccio, seven of the nine MFS buses are affected.
Officials have identified around 36 “close contacts” to the students who tested positive. Those students and the students who tested positive are encouraged to get a PCR test, which is considered the gold standard when it comes to COVID-19. Results take longer than the asymptomatic tests. No one can be forced to take a COVID-19 test; parents have to opt in for students to be part of the asynchronous testing program.
But even if students were to test negative after these positive tests Tuesday, according to the state Dept. of Health, that first positive is considered positive, requiring a 10-day quarantine.
“The last 24 hours have been very tense,” Marcaccio said Wednesday. He said the school had a grab and go school supply pickup Wednesday and will have another one Thursday, since it all happened fast and not all students took home everything they will need.
He noted that Meadowbrook does not tell students when they have tested positive since they are so young, leaving it to parents to communicate,
“I continue to be impressed by the community – the families, the staff – in their efforts to respond quickly,” he said. “Everybody’s anxiety level is super high. It makes me worry about the staff…. They are doing a wonderful job and are being rocks for the kids. The energy in the classrooms – it’s hard to tell it’s COVID or not. Kids are happy. They’re smiling, they’re engaged, they’re enjoying being children.”
The district will continue to do contact tracing with help from DOH. Here’s the memo sent out to the Meadowbrook Farms community Wednesday: EGSD Meadowbrook Memo, Feb. 10, 2010.