Chatham Elementary Student Tests Positive For COVID-19

By: Tim Wood

Chatham Elementary School. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – A dozen Chatham Elementary School students and their teachers are in isolation after one tested positive for COVID-19.

Superintendent of Schools Scott Carpenter said one classroom with a dozen students, a teacher and two teaching assistants was affected. He did not reveal the grade. At Tuesday's board of selectmen's meeting, Health and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson said the person who tested positive was a student but not a resident of Chatham. The person's town of residence was not revealed.

The positive student was last in the school Oct. 5, Carpenter said, and had been home with mild symptoms last week, “which is what we want individuals to do.” The student's physician decided to do a COVID-19 test and it came back positive over the weekend. School officials were notified by town health officials Tuesday morning, and the board of health and Visiting Nurse Association initiated contract tracing procedures.

Because of the school's social distancing and mask requirements, none of the members of the class met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for close contact, Carpenter said, but all families were notified by Tuesday afternoon about the need to quarantine. The students remained in class Tuesday and were picked up at the end of the day by parents, rather than riding the bus home. All members of the class will participate remotely for the rest of the week and will be back in the classroom Oct. 20, which will be 14 days since the last exposure to the positive student, Carpenter said.

A small number of the class members were advised to get COVID-19 tests. “The individuals that were more closely situated, we've said this would be appropriate,” Carpenter said.

Last month, a Monomoy Regional High School eighth grader became the first public school student on the Cape to test positive for the coronavirus after in-person classes began. That case led to dozens of students isolating and a small cluster of local residents testing positive for the virus, including two Chatham firefighters.

Fewer people are involved in the most recent situation, Carpenter said, because elementary school classes are more self-contained than those at the high school, where students have multiple teachers and switch classes throughout the day. Student desks are spaced six feet apart, and both students and staff wear masks at all times.

With elementary and middle school students in school daily and high school students on a hybrid schedule, Monomoy has led the region in in-person education this school year, Carpenter said. When he informed the school committee and board of selectmen of the positive case on Tuesday, he noted that some districts are only now returning to in-person learning.

“It's really a credit to our teachers' commitment to be in classrooms with their kids,” he said.

All Monomoy classrooms are sanitized every evening, and additional cleaning was planned for the elementary school Tuesday evening.

“We're doing everything that you need to in a challenging situation to have schools function,” he said. “It's the unfortunate new norm for the school year.”

In an email to parents Tuesday evening, Carpenter said families should keep students at home if they have mild cold or allergy-like symptoms. “Please continue to monitor your child for symptoms, keep your child home if they show any symptoms or are not feeling well, and notify the school nurse of the symptoms.” he wrote.

Duncanson said that after school programs at Monomoy Community Services and the community center were notified of the positive test, but neither that student nor any contacts attend the programs.

Email Tim Wood at twood@capecodchronicle.com