Ridgefield High ‘moving ahead’ with reopening timeline despite recent COVID-19 case
RIDGEFIELD — One week after a person with COVID-19 visited Ridgefield High School, town and school officials said it was safe for students to drop off books and other summer reading materials in the auxiliary gym on Monday.
Other events will also proceed on schedule: Teachers are due back for the first of several professional development days this Wednesday; one group of ninth-graders begins high school next Thursday; and roughly half of the sophomores, juniors and seniors return next Friday as part of the district’s hybrid reopening plan.
“(We’re) moving ahead,” Superintendent Susie Da Silva on Monday. “(The) building was cleaned well in advance of the weekend.”
Parents, teachers and staff were notified of the positive coronavirus case in an email sent Sunday.
“CDC and Connecticut Department of Public Health protocols require that individuals who came into close contact with the individual self quarantine for 14 days,” wrote Aaron Crook, the COVID-19 health and safety compliance liaison for Ridgefield public schools. “We have alerted those who would have had access to Ridgefield High School on August 10, 2020. The building was closed for educational programming to students on this date.”
Although the person was inside the school on Aug. 10, officials did not learn about the positive COVID-19 result until late Saturday afternoon. As part of regular maintenance, the building was cleaned several times between Aug. 10 and Aug. 15.
It’s unclear what relationship the individual has with the school.
In his letter, Crook said that the high school “will be thoroughly cleaned before professional development begins for teachers and staff (on Wednesday).
“Protocols were followed in consultation with Mr. Ed Briggs, town of Ridgefield Health Department Director, Dr. James Ahern, District Medical Advisor, and Dr. Susie Da Silva, Superintendent of Schools,” Crook added.
On Monday, Briggs said school officials told him the high school had been cleaned thoroughly.
“They felt it was safe,” Briggs said. “They were confident that it would be OK for teachers and students to return.”
“If this happened the day before school opened, I would say uh-oh,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “But there is enough of a time gap for the building to be ready for the start of school.”
“I’m not certain a single (positive) test result alone is the reason to delay (the start of school); however, we should be looking at the data all around,” said Aimee Berger-Girvalo, whose son will be a freshman at Ridgefield High this fall. “What is happening in districts that have already returned? Are our kids all wearing masks in public and limiting their exposure to others, and prepared to do so as they return to the building? Will faculty, staff, bus drivers and students be tested regularly? Without that kind of information, it’s going to be difficult for the district and families to decide what to do.
Parent Robyn Bergh Shahar, meanwhile, felt the school should be closed longer.
“Whenever someone shows positive for COVID-19, I believe that everyone in that school should be notified ASAP and ... the school should be closed for the two-week period,” said Bergh Shahar, whose child is a rising sophomore.
One Ridgefield teacher, who requested her name be withheld, said she was “more concerned” after learning of the positive COVID-19 test.
“I think all of us were already a little unsure about getting back in the classroom,” she said. “To have a positive test in one of the district’s schools, so close to when teachers return for professional development, is unsettling. It makes things even realer.”