DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Two positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Dearborn Heights’ D7 School District less than a week after school began.
One case was confirmed at Bedford Elementary and one case was confirmed at Annapolis High School.
Parents and guardians received letters from the principals at the end of last week advising that areas of the schools will be disinfected as a precaution and that there are safety protocols in place to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Superintendent Jennifer Mast told The Arab American News that the district is taking its instructions from the health department.
“The health department dictates how we respond,” she said. “So whenever we have a positive case, we have procedures to follow and instructions on notifying parents and staff.”
Both cases in D7 were classified as “close contact” positive cases. Michigan’s “Safe Start” protocol considers anyone within six feet of distance for more than 15 minutes of someone who has shown symptoms within a 48 hour time frame to be a close contact.
District parents were given a choice to have their kids return to school buildings or get taught online. Forty percent of students returned to in-person learning.
Mast said that she does not expect the virus to spread within the schools.
“Every single child is sitting at a desk surrounded by a clear partition,” she said. “We are being diligent about it and cleaning around the clock. Masks are being worn all day long. We feel very confident that our buildings are safe.”
Although social distancing efforts are in place, as well as a mask mandate, Mast said this was to be expected.
“This isn’t a surprise,” she said. “We only have them in our buildings for eight hours a day. We can’t shield what they are exposed to outside of school, but we do know how to handle these situations and are following the health department instructions.”
While Mast could not confirm whether the cases were of students or faculty, she did confirm that they have not traced the contact to have occurred at the schools themselves.
Despite parents being vocally frustrated over what they are calling “lack of communication”, Mast said the district will not be posting information about these cases on social media for any reason.
“The biggest backlash I’ve gotten from parents is that this wasn’t posted on our Facebook page,” she said. “But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to release personal health information on social media. I know how people can generate comments and judgments and it’s not right.”
Mast said in a video posted on the district’s Facebook page that they are respecting confidentiality when it comes to health issues.
“We are making everyone aware that needs to be made aware,” she said in her video. “There are very clear guidelines on who needs to be notified, who is in contact and how we do that.
“We are doing everything that we need to do. The problem with social media is when we post something on social media, it then generates comments and they can be very judgmental. I don’t think the intention is to be judgmental, but it comes across that way.”
In her video, Mast also said it could be embarrassing for people.
“When we have to quarantine somebody or a group of people because of a possible exposure, it already kind of isolates them and puts a spotlight on them that no one really deserves to have put on them,” she said. “And then when those people see all these comments about there being a case and they know it’s somehow related to them, it’s just not right. It’s not just right for people to see that and possibly feel embarrassed or alienated.”
Mast told The Arab American News that this isn’t an attempt to cover anything up.
“I’m not trying to cover anything up,” she said. “I’m trying to protect sensitive information of our students and staff.”
Just last week Mast told The Arab American News that before reopening, parents were given a choice to have their kids return to school buildings or get taught online. Forty percent of students returned to in-person learning.
“We gave parents the choice of whether they wanted to have their children in the classroom or doing remote learning,” Mast said. “We actually have about 40 percent of our students in school learning, with the remaining 60 percent doing remote.”