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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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With onslaught of COVID-19 cases, Spokane Public Schools starts online reporting tool

UPDATED: Sun., Jan. 23, 2022

While Spokane Public Schools' policy on student safety and reporting incidents to law enforcement has drawn FBI scrutiny, parents largely lauded the district's approach at a regularly scheduled board meeting Wednesday night.   (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)
While Spokane Public Schools' policy on student safety and reporting incidents to law enforcement has drawn FBI scrutiny, parents largely lauded the district's approach at a regularly scheduled board meeting Wednesday night.  (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)

As COVID-19 cases surge to record levels and formal contract tracing becomes more difficult, Spokane Public Schools is giving families another option.

Families can access an interactive contact tracing tool that became available on the district’s website Friday.

As the omicron variant has spread and the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has skyrocketed, school districts and other organizations have found it difficult to keep up.

The issue came up during a Spokane School Board meeting on Jan. 5, when Becky Doughty, the district’s executive director of school support services, acknowledged that contact tracing by district nurses was becoming more problematic.

Doughty confirmed that reality in an email on Friday.

“Our system needed to evolve in a way that allows large numbers of families and staff to receive real-time guidance,” Doughty said. “Using this tool, we can honor the state’s quarantine guidance while also returning students and staff to our schools at the appropriate time.”

The new contact tracing form will “increase the efficiency of providing guidance to staff and schools regarding quarantine timelines,” the district said.

The new form will allow parents to enter information about their student’s exposure and symptoms and will give parents a date when their children are allowed to return to school.

Dashboards posted Friday afternoon confirmed that COVID has reached record-breaking levels this week.

At Spokane Public Schools, the number of students and staff who had confirmed COVID cases and entered a school building stood at 941 from Monday through Thursday, according to its public dashboard posted Friday evening.

The district has 2,336 people quarantined; that’s up from the previous record of 539 set last week.

Hotspots included Lewis and Clark High School, which reported 79 cases and 126 people quarantined; and Rogers High School, which had 63 cases and 123 under quarantine.

Another 26 cases and 146 quarantines were reported at Cooper Elementary. Whitman Elementary reported only four cases, but has 100 quarantined.

Most districts updated their dashboards on Friday, and the numbers at some are the highest since the pandemic began.

Among larger districts, Central Valley reported 1,150 positive cases in the previous 10 days; that’s a slight decline from the 1,244 on Thursday.

Mead had 783 positive cases in the previous 10 days. Cheney School District reported 322 cases since Jan. 10, with 141 of those occurring at Cheney High School.

West Valley reported a record 361 cases – 45 of them among staff – in the last two weeks.

At Coeur d’Alene Public Schools, 713 students and staff are out of buildings, with 345 new cases reported this week.

Several smaller districts also saw record numbers: Deer Park with 109, Riverside with 115, Freeman with 42.

Liberty School District in Spangle, with an enrollment of 558, had 85 cases as of Wednesday, with 125 people quarantined.

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