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Sebastian River Middle School parents feel that COVID-19 contact tracing is not working

Sebastian River Middle School
Sebastian River Middle School

Sebastian Daily has been receiving complaints from parents whose children go to Sebastian River Middle School in Sebastian. They feel that they are not being notified in a timely manner when students & teachers come down with COVID-19.

“A teacher was positive. The parents of all students were not notified. My kids were in the class with the covid positive teacher, and my kids are in classes with students being notified today from the November 4th exposure. Parents are being notified today (Wednesday, November 11, 2020), seven days later. My twins have not been notified yet,” frustrated parent Julie Sharkey-Villars stated.

“This is unacceptable! The district promised parents it was safe. When asked about contact tracing, they have no idea how the health department does it,” Sharkey-Villars added. 

We spoke with the School Board Public Information Officer Cristen Maddux and asked her to explain how their contact tracing works.

Maddux explained that the health department does its contact tracing and case investigations. The District COVID Response Team meets the Health Department at the schools when they have confirmation of a positive case to provide support. 

“We have classroom seating charts for all classrooms that are used to assist with contact tracing, as well as the interview the health department does with the family or the person who is COVID positive to determine if there is anyone else who meets close contact criteria, Maddux told Sebastian Daily.

“Any extracurricular school activities and athletics are also reviewed to see if close contact was made. Just because a student is in class with someone who is COVID positive does not necessarily mean they are positive, Maddux added.

The CDC defines close contact criteria as being within 6 feet from the confirmed positive person for 15 minutes or more. 

“If a person is identified as meeting close contact criteria with the student or staff member who tested positive, district officials or the Health Department will make individual calls to those people,” Maddux told us.

How does the School District make sure that parents stay informed?

Maddux stated that she personally sends out School Messenger calls (recorded call with details of the case and quarantine) to all student families and staff members on the campus with the positive case, the day we have confirmation of a positive case. 

“Additionally, I also send a press release with the details of the cases that were reported that day, if it was a student or staff member who tested positive, and how many people were quarantined. It is posted to our district website and comes through as a notification on our SDIRC phone app,” Maddux explained.

What should you do if you feel you should have received a call but have not?

“If parents are not receiving calls, they need to contact the school to make sure their contact information is correct. Many parents do not realize that they aren’t receiving the calls because their contact info is not updated. In addition to this information, we have advertised our Office of Advocacy that handles concerns from families and staff members related to COVID,” Maddux explained.

 “I support the efforts of the school SRMS Principal Racine and SDIRC. I do not support the SDIRC relying on the contact tracing conducted by the health department as it’s not accurate and is ensuring a false sense of security, Sharkey-Villars told Sebastian Daily.

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About Tina Hodges
Tina Hodges is a Sebastian native. After graduating from Sebastian River High School, she studied Business Management & Marketing at Indian River State College. Tina worked for Dooney & Bourke for many years before she became our VP of Sales & Marketing & Journalist. Tina joined Sebastian Daily in 2016.