NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — North Providence High School began full distance learning on Tuesday after roughly 100 students and 15 staff members were ordered to quarantine.
In a letter to parents, North Providence Superintendent Joseph Goho said the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) failed to immediately notify school officials and initiate contact tracing on Sunday, the day the positive test was discovered, which are both protocols. (Read the full letter below.)
Goho said health officials alerted the student’s family on Sunday but didn’t inform the district about the case until around 8:30 a.m. Monday, which is when they began contact tracing.
“Furthermore, a high school student listed by RIDOH as having to quarantine as a close contact to the positive case two days earlier, showed up to school on Monday and stated that there was no call received from RIDOH directing the quarantine, and therefore the student was unaware,” he wrote.
In a statement to 12 News, R.I. Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said the department reached out the superintendent on Sunday and left a message, and also began contact tracing that day.
“The student was instructed to isolate, we started the contact tracing process, and a member of our case investigation team called the superintendent on Sunday,” Wendelken wrote. “A message was left for the superintendent on Sunday indicating that we were calling about a COVID-19 case in the district. The superintendent called back, but we did not connect until Monday morning.”
As for the student who went to school when he or she should’ve been quarantining, Wendelken suggested that the contact information provided by the district may not have been accurate.
“We rely on schools for the contact information for families,” he added. “If a school provides us with incorrect contact information for a family, that slows down the notification process.”
According to the district, three students have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last few days: one at Birchwood Middle School and two at the high school.
At Birchwood, contact tracing took place over the weekend, resulting in roughly 15 students and one faculty member being placed in quarantine.
Below is the full letter sent by Goho to the school community:
“Greetings North Providence Families and Staff,
“As you may know, the District has had three confirmed positive student COVID19 cases in the last few days, one at Birchwood MS and two at the High School. Because of the stable pod set up at the middle school level, RIDOH contact tracing resulted in one faculty member and approximately fifteen students being directed to quarantine for fourteen days at Birchwood. At the High School, because students travel from class to class without stable pods, the two positive cases resulted in approximately 90-100 students and 12-15 staff members being directed to quarantine. As a result, in consultation with RIDOH and RIDE, the decision was made to close the HIGH SCHOOL through the quarantine period, and implement distance learning through October 19th. This applies to the HIGH SCHOOL only. All other schools remain fully open.
“The situation at the high school was exacerbated by the fact that RIDOH became aware of a positive student COVID19 result early Sunday morning, and evidently RIDOH notified the student’s family at that time. However, RIDOH did not notify the district or the high school administration on the day that the positive test was discovered on Sunday, as is protocol, nor did RIDOH initiate contact tracing for the high school on Sunday, which also is protocol. RIDOH informed the District of the positive high school student case on Monday morning at approximately 8:30 AM, and contact tracing began at that time by RIDOH. Furthermore, a high school student listed by RIDOH as having to quarantine as a close contact to the positive case two days earlier, showed up to school on Monday and stated that there was no call received from RIDOH directing the quarantine, and therefore the student was unaware. At Birchwood, the same situation occurred, with contact tracing taking place on the weekend, and students were directed by RIDOH to quarantine. However, a close contact quarantined student reported to Birchwood on Monday and also stated that no call directing quarantine was ever received.
“I have been in contact with RIDOH, RIDE, and the Governor’s office regarding these circumstances, and I thought it was important to share this information with the community and our staff in full transparency.
“The beginning of the school year has largely been very positive, and both students and staff are happy to return to in person learning. Given the circumstances described above, in order for our return to school to continue safety and uninterrupted, I would like to reiterate a few reminders:
- All students must complete the daily RIDOH required wellness check in skyward prior to going to school.
- If your child is not feeling well, do not send your child to school. Please also notify the school.
- If your child has been exposed to a positive COVID19 case outside of school, please contact your child’s doctor and the school immediately. You also may contact RIDOH.
- If you take your child for a COVID19 test, please contact the school nurse immediately.
- If your child tests positive for COVID19, or if you are contacted by RIDOH and told to quarantine your child, please contact your school nurse immediately. Do not assume that the school/district has been made aware by RIDOH.
“If you have any questions or concerns at any time, please contact your school nurse and/or RIDOH. Please stay in close communication with the school regarding any illness or potential exposure.
“Thank you for your cooperation.”
Joseph B. Goho, Superintendent
North Providence Public Schools
2240 Mineral Spring Avenue
North Providence, RI 02911