Daviess County Public Schools has decided to close Tamarack Elementary School’s doors to students, teachers and staff this week due to a high number of positive COVID-19 cases.

A letter sent on Sunday from district officials to families said the “closure is due to a significant number of positive COVID-19 cases, contacts and quarantines” among the school staff.

According to Wendi Kozel, DCPS health coordinator, there are currently six Tamarack staff members who have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 16 additional staff members there who are currently quarantining because of their proximity to an individual who later tested positive.

DCPS elementary and middle school students just returned to classrooms on Jan. 11.

Clay Horton, Green River District Health Department public health director, said on Monday it’s tough to say whether or not the cases at Tamarack are connected. He said there is a high level of spread in the community at this time, so he couldn’t say whether these cases occurred in or out of the school.

“We have a lot of community spread right now and that sometimes makes staffing a challenge, whether you are a school or any other type of business,” Horton said.

He said contact tracing is streamlined at this point, considering how high the number of positive cases has been. The health department tries to contact every positive case and provide them with education on how to take care of themselves, while also encouraging them to pass along that information to anyone they had contact with.

“Prior to November, we would actually try to reach out to every high-risk contact that would be named,” he said. “We are not doing that now. There are just too many right now.”

Matt Robbins, DCPS superintendent, also said he would attribute this number of cases at Tamarack to community spread that is “post-holiday.”

When communicating to families before Christmas, Robbins made them aware that schools may close this semester while the district remained open, depending on the circumstances at individual schools.

Tamarack had too many staff members out to function properly, he said.

“It’s pointless to bring kids to school when we don’t have professionals there to do their jobs,” he said, adding that there weren’t enough classroom teachers and substitutes to manage the absences.

Having students and staff members within the district test positive for COVID-19, or having to quarantine, is the new normal now, Robbins said, and those cases will be dealt with on an individual basis.

Robbins is “extremely thankful” for DCPS staff who, through such a hardship, have been working to cover classes when teachers have to be out.

“They are going the extra mile to try to keep our schools open as much as we can for students,” he said.

Families of TES students will be notified by Thursday regarding the status of in-person learning next week, the letter went on to say, and in the meantime, the school is being “diligently” sanitized and deep cleaned.

Curbside meals will be available at the schedule posted on our website. Go directly to that page here: https://www.daviesskyschools.org/News/curbsidemealmenu#sthash.XeapQwuS.dpbs

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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