Students at three schools in the Mountain View Whisman School District have been ordered to stay home and quarantine this week after someone tested positive for COVID-19 at each campus, marking a surge in positive cases since in-person instruction resumed.
The district received notice on Friday that a student attending Landels Elementary School tested positive for COVID-19, according to district spokeswoman Shelly Hausman. The next day, two students at Monta Loma Elementary tested positive. And on Monday, a student at Mariano Castro Elementary School was confirmed to have tested positive for the virus.
In an email to parents Saturday night, district officials warned that either a student or staff member at Monta Loma tested positive for COVID-19, and that those who went to campus last week and came in close contact with the person must stay home. Children who were exposed to the sick student have been asked to quarantine for 10 days, reverting back to remote learning via Zoom.
A total of 28 students at Landels have been asked to quarantine, along with 12 students at Monta Loma and 11 students at Castro.
Families with quarantined children who show symptoms of COVID-19 are being asked to get a COVID-19 test immediately, while those who are asymptomatic are asked to schedule a test six days after the last exposure. The affected classroom cohort must remain off campus until at least May 7, and are scheduled to return on May 10.
The mandatory quarantine is among the tight protocols in effect to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in public schools since reopening for in-person instruction in March. Mountain View Whisman is hardly an anomaly, as kids and staff are frequently testing positive for the virus in reopened schools throughout the Bay Area. Since the start of the school year in August, 15 students in the district have tested positive, and 126 students have been quarantined as a precautionary measure.
District officials believe the recent increase in COVID-19 cases among students may have to do with spring break and an increase in gatherings, which could be boosting the transmission of the virus and forcing more students back to remote learning.
"It's important that people know that the pandemic is not over yet and it's of utmost importance that people continue to wear masks -- especially unvaccinated kids -- wash hands, and keep distance," Hausman said.
Landels Elementary School has the highest number of students quarantined to date with 38, followed by Castro Elementary at 30 and Monta Loma at 24. Five students have tested positive for COVID-19 at Castro, the highest of all the school sites, while the lowest exposure has been at Huff Elementary with just one staff member testing positive and two people quarantined.
A total of 23 staff have tested positive and 61 have had to quarantine since August last year, though the number includes district office staff and those who do not work directly with students. Staff who have been vaccinated generally do not have to quarantine after possible exposure to the virus.
Though in-person instruction began in mid-March, it took until April 26 for the first COVID-19 case on campus to force students into quarantine. At the time, 10 people at Crittenden Middle School were quarantined.
The neighboring Sunnyvale school district is reporting significantly fewer COVID-19 cases so far, with four students who are participating in in-person instruction testing positive since January. In Palo Alto Unified -- which is twice the size of Mountain View Whisman, started in-person instruction earlier and includes high school students -- there have been 32 students and 34 staff who have tested positive since January.
County health rules require school districts to report new cases of COVID-19 within four hours, and take preventative action to avoid an outbreak of three or more cases linked to exposure at a school. The hurdle for a school closure is fairly high, requiring an outbreak in at least 25% of student cohorts within a 14-day period or a sequence of outbreaks that affects at least 5% of the student body.
Parents are later notified via email that a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, including whether their child has been exposed and needs to quarantine.
Though COVID-19 cases are temporarily forcing some students back into remote learning, the number of new cases in Mountain View remains relatively low. Over the last month there have been 117 new cases, roughly the same as the 103 new cases for March and significantly lower than February (412 cases) and January (764 new cases).
With cases dropping significantly earlier this year, state officials sought to incentivize schools swiftly reopening for in-person instruction in the spring. State funding hinged on schools reopening by April 1, a deadline that all three of Mountain View's local school districts met. Though the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District officially resumed in-person classes on April 19, the district's so-called stable groups met the state's criteria for funding.
Mountain View-Los Altos had one student test positive in the first week. District officials did not immediately respond to requests for more information.
More information on the Mountain View Whisman School District's COVID-19 guidelines and protocols can be found online.