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Jefferson City

Jefferson City parent wants school district to change COVID-19 notification protocols

Marcus Penn
Marcus Penn
Marcus Penn, right, and his daughter. Penn, whose daughter contracted COVID-19, is unhappy with the way the Jefferson City School District notifies families when a student or worker tests positive for novel coronavirus.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

A parent whose child got COVID-19 wants the Jefferson City School District to change its coronavirus exposure notification protocols. 

Marcus Penn said his family wasn’t made aware his daughter had been in the same classroom with a COVID-19 positive person until she first started showing symptoms. 

While it's not clear his daughter contracted the virus from that contact, she did start showing symptoms shortly after exposure.

"We know that someone tested positive in the classroom," Penn said. "There was never a notification provided to anyone."

Penn said that the students at the middle school that his daughter attends were able to figure out that they had been exposed.

"It was a 'hey, this person isn't going to be around for a couple of weeks,'" Penn said. "And of course no one said why, there was no hint that it was COVID-19 related ... the kids started doing the math and put two and two together."

Penn said he later got independent confirmation that the person did test positive for COVID-19.

Penn said he talked with the school principal, the director of secondary education and the director of health services with the district. Penn said he wants the district to be more transparent with the notification process.

"There is a hole in the notification process," Penn said. "Had we had gotten notification from the school district that said your daughter, while not a close contact of a person that has tested positive, has been in the same room for an entire class period."

Penn said if they would have known about the positive case, they wouldn't have sent their daughter to school.

Penn said he just wants better notifications from the district so that parents can look for COVID-19 symptoms especially as the fall season has arrived.

According to the JC Schools re-entry plan, the district takes several steps after it receives notification and confirmation of a student or staff member who tests positive for novel coronavirus. 

First the district will determine when the student or staff member became symptomatic and whether they were on school property while showing symptoms. 

If the student or staff member was not on school property within 48 hours before becoming symptomatic and they have no close contacts with other students or staff, no communication from the district would be sent. 

If it is determined that the student or staff member was on school property within 48 hours before becoming symptomatic, the district will begin its contact tracing process to determine whether any other students or staff can be identified as having close contact (within 6 feet for longer than 15 minutes) with the infected person. Notification from the district would be sent to staff and all families at the affected school. 

Director of Communications for Jefferson City Schools, Ryan Burns, they are committed to their re-entry plan which they believe is working as designed to minimize exposure to positive cases that do occur in schools.

She said in a statement that if families are not contacted, that means they have determined that there is not a risk of exposure to the positive case.

“As a district, we must comply with state and federal confidentiality laws," Burns said. "This includes protecting the privacy and identity of any positive cases by not sharing any information that would allow that individual to be identified.”

Burns said they appreciate their staff and families for understanding the limitations to the medical information they can provide, but that they are working hard to provide as much info as they can.

The district reported 58 positive cases and 66 people identified as close contacts as of Monday. 

Coronavirus / Education / Jefferson City Public Schools / News / Top Stories

Riane Cleveland

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