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Deer Creek Elementary School staff Susan Forga (front) and Nancy Law (back) call parents as part of the school’s COVID tracing protocol.
What COVID tracing looks like in one district
March 15, 2021
Every day, students are absent from school for a variety of reasons, but this year it is different. Due to COVID, there are new rules, procedures and protocols to follow, especially for hybrid students who attend school on a regular basis.
The health and safety of staff, students and families has a new meaning this year for the Nevada City School District.
At Deer Creek Elementary School, School Nurse Nancy Law and School Secretary Susan Forga both perform tracing duties, which have kept the school’s 306 students learning in a hybrid model since the start of school on Aug. 17.
If a student does not attend school for one day, immediately the family is contacted to find out why. If a student has one or more symptoms on the COVID symptom checklist, Law starts a written documentation process that she follows up on daily or weekly, until the case is closed and the student is healthy and able to return safely back to campus.
She begins by finding out the date the symptoms started or an exposure occurred. Then she works backward to find out if and/or when the student was symptomatic and if they were on campus to expose others.
“Possibly the trickiest part is getting a hold of the parents to get the correct dates of illness,” Law said.
Then she helps educate families on their next steps. Parents can wait out the timeline of 10 days of symptoms, get a COVID test with a negative result, or take them to a doctor and see if he or she clears them.
“You have to be really consistent with what you tell parents the protocol is,” Forga said. “It is hard when a child has a runny nose and that is the only symptom. Kids the age of ours get stomachaches and runny noses all the time. It is hard for parents when they have to work around their schedules to accommodate the quarantine.”
If the student was on campus and exposed other students, then another protocol needs to be followed to see which cohort and staff were exposed.
The process can take minutes to hours depending on a students’ circumstances, Law said, and there’s a lot of waiting involved.
“Many times we have to wait to hear back from parents. We leave messages and email. We have to follow up and notify the teachers who can come and who cannot,” Forga said. “We actually bought a cell phone so we could reach parents by texting.”
Law advises school staff be patient and not rush through the screening process.
“Be persistent and consistent. Have the same protocol for everyone. Follow through,” Forga added. “Have one person responsible to getting all the information. Have everyone report what they know to just that person. This ensures we have all the information we need to process the case.”
From Aug. 17 through Dec. 18, the Nevada City School District filled out 184 COVID-19 forms. From those, only one student was on campus to expose students and a cohort had to be closed. From that, no students in that cohort developed COVID-19. The district had five other positive cases; however, none of the student(s) were not on campus to expose anyone and therefore no other cohorts needed to be closed.

The district office follows this protocol for the staff as well, and of the 35 forms filled out, none of the staff tested positive.
This health screening protocol was developed by the Nevada County Health Department in conjunction with the school nurses in the county. After this protocol was developed, each school site administrator and office staff was trained in how to administer it.
It has changed the way staff talk to and communicate with families this year. This is also another way people’s jobs have changed this year with COVID-19.
Following protocols like this, in addition to parents and staff doing daily symptom checks at home before they come to school, has allowed the Nevada City School District schools to remain open from the time school started and not have to revert to a full distance learning model.
Law said she has enjoyed seeing students happy, learning and thriving at her school.
“To be able to be a part of that is very gratifying,” she said.
District staff member on the phone at her desk.
Stacy Turiello calls families at Seven Hills Middle School as part of the Nevada City School District’s COVID tracing protocol that has allowed students to attend in-person classes throughout the school year.