District COVID-19 Update – 9.28.2020

As with many schools across our area and state, the Helena Public Schools have been notified of our first school-related cases of COVID-19. These positive cases have been confirmed and we are working with health officials from Lewis & Clark Public Health to assess any potential contacts. As we have learned over the past eight months, each situation pertaining to a positive case is unique and requires individual assessment by a trained health professional. As part of the county’s contract tracing process, they specifically look into whether any individual has been within six (6) feet for a period of fifteen (15) minutes or longer. If a person is identified in this regard, they are considered a “close contact” and required to quarantine for a period of fourteen (14) days before they can return to school and/or work. Contacts are confirmed and notified directly by county health.

When notified of a confirmed, positive case, we will work to communicate this information first to the employees, parents, and families of that specific school. We can typically confirm if the positive case is a student or employee but are sometimes limited in disclosing even that information as we must comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules, as well as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As soon as a positive case is confirmed, we do work to communicate as quickly as possible but there are times when potential cases are reported in the evenings and difficult to quickly/accurately confirm and communicate. That noted, we are committed to providing the information that we can, including noting positive cases online at https://helenaschools.org/covid-19-cases-in-our-schools/.

As a community, we are confident that we can work together to slow this most recent rise in local cases. The universal masking and smaller class sizes associated with our Phase I model help in this regard but we need the assistance of our entire community to responsibly reduce the risk of virus transmission. As the graphic below cites, the opportunities that we work to provide our students are directly impacted by the health of our local community. As our partner health professionals have repeatedly cited, community spread is everyone’s responsibility and we can all do our part to help our students, educators, and neighbors remain safe and healthy. Below are a few reminders for each family.

Daily Symptom Checking: As part of your morning routine, we are asking that every family assess their health and the health of their children by performing a simple check for symptoms associated with COVID-19. The CDC continues to provide an updated list of symptoms including the below, commonly-cited indicators. (link)

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If Symptomatic, Please Remain at Home: If your child is symptomatic in accordance with the above, please keep them at home and seek the advice of medical professionals. For the health and safety of others, we are asking that families strictly follow these practices. Even with universal masking and physical distancing at our schools, we need the assistance of every family to minimize the risk of virus transmission. Please note that any student assessed as having potential symptoms at school will be isolated, cared for, and must be picked-up immediately by a parent/guardian.

stay vigilant (2)The Necessity of Masking: Please remember that masks are required at all times within our Helena Public Schools. This is an important health and safety protocol that we have practiced as a school district since the onset of this COVID-19 pandemic. As a district, we have incorporated the below mask recommendations as provided by the CDC (link)

  • Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Masks should be worn by people two years and older
  • Please note that the CDC and other health professionals do not recommend the use of gaiters or face shields as a substitute to face masks. Evaluation of these face covers is on-going but effectiveness remains unknown at this time.

Update Contact Information: Parents should have received an email requesting they update their contact information or “re-enroll.”  This form can be completed two ways:

  • Visiting a “snapcode”*
  • Using the PowerSchool Parent Portal

Both ways can be accessed on this page of our website.  If you have questions and/or need a snapcode, please contact your child(ren)’s school(s).