EAST HELENA — East Helena School District leaders have reported the first COVID-19 cases of the year, a week after the start of classes.
In a letter to parents Tuesday, Superintendent Dan Rispens reported two students at East Valley Middle School and one each at Radley Elementary and East Helena High School have tested positive. Staff members at EHHS and Prickly Pear Elementary tested positive prior to the start of school.
Rispens told MTN about 60 students in the district are temporarily assigned to remote learning because they were close contacts to positive COVID cases.
In his letter, Rispens said the district revised its protocols for close contacts after getting updated guidance from local health leaders. They are having students who are close contacts switch to remote learning for 14 days – either online or with a take-home packet of work.
If families can document their student had COVID and recovered in the last three months, they’ll be allowed to stay in in-person classes. Students can return after seven days instead of 14 if they test negative for COVID five days after being exposed.
Students on remote learning won’t be able to participate in extracurricular activities.
Rispens said, in elementary schools, it’s likely entire classes will be switched to remote learning if they have an exposure, because it’s difficult to determine who is or isn’t a close contact.
“We recognize that these temporary transitions to remote learning will be troublesome for families managing work schedules and other commitments,” Rispens said in his letter. “The entire community can help minimize the need for this by working to limit the spread of COVID 19.”
Rispens urged families to get vaccinated, keep their kids home when they’re sick and follow health department advice on isolation and quarantine.
According to the letter, East Helena’s varsity football game against Columbia Falls on Friday has been canceled due to COVID.