PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Three positive cases of COVID-19 found in Providence high school students last week have sent 11 teachers and 45 students into quarantine after contact-tracing was done over the weekend.
The two students who tested positive at Providence Career and Technical Academy last week — who are family members — had contact with nine teachers and 38 students during the one day they attended school, according to spokesperson Laura Hart. The R.I. Department of Health conducted the contact tracing.
While elementary schools are keeping students in relatively stable groups, high schoolers in Providence are rotating to multiple classes and subjects. Only 9th graders have returned to high school so far, alternating between in-person and remote learning in order to decrease class sizes. (Some older students such as English learners and special needs students have also returned.)
At Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex, one student tested positive last week, sending two staff members and seven students into quarantine because they were considered close contacts of the student.
Other than the 3 students, none of the people in quarantine have tested positive for COVID-19, according to spokesperson Laura Hart.
The Juanita Sanchez student who tested positive had attended school in person on Monday of last week, while the two PCTA students were in school on Tuesday. The classrooms affected have been deep-cleaned, Hart said.
Two other staff members in Providence schools have tested positive so far; one at Anthony Carnevale Elementary and one at Webster Elementary.
“The first week of school, our physical return was a huge success,” said Superintendent Harrison Peters on Monday. “Everyone was really nervous and on edge about it, and so was I. But our team responded really, really well.”
With only a week of school so far, it’s too soon to say whether the precautions taken in classrooms will be enough to prevent the spread of the virus. As of Friday there had been 48 positive cases statewide connected to K-12 schools, according to the Health Department, but most were thought to have contracted the virus before the school year started.
Peters said he was confident the HEPA filters, fans, open windows and mandatory masks in Providence schools would keep students and staff safe. But he urged everyone to stay home if they are sick, or if someone in their household is sick, has tested positive or is awaiting test results.
“There is no perfect attendance award this year,” Peters said.