CSD enforces new COVID-19 protocols for school year, parents adapt

Students+attending+school+in+the+Corvallis+School+District+return+to+in-person+instruction+this+fall+with+new+COVID-19+health+screening+protocols+in+place.%0ACSD+will+utilize+an+app+called+Safety+iPass+to+collect+data+regarding+COVID-19+transmission+among+students+and+staff.

Jess Hume-Pantuso, Photographer

Students attending school in the Corvallis School District return to in-person instruction this fall with new COVID-19 health screening protocols in place. CSD will utilize an app called Safety iPass to collect data regarding COVID-19 transmission among students and staff.

Elijah Dodd, News Contributor

Students in the Corvallis School District get to attend in-person instruction this year due to new COVID-19 protocols put in place by the school board.

As COVID-19 rates in Benton County begin to rise again, reaching 190 new cases the week of Sept. 13 according to the Benton County Health Department, CSD has continued old requirements and added new protocols to ensure the safety of students this school year.

Working together with the Benton County Health Department, the district’s new in-person protocols for the 2021-22 school year include free COVID-19 testing and a daily mandatory health screening process. Melissa Harder, the assistant superintendent for CSD, clarified the details around this new health screening process.

The process is done through an app called Safety iPass, which asks parents questions surrounding symptoms and possible COVID- 19 exposure. Students can only participate in class after they have been cleared through this app.

“Safety iPass allows our nursing department to collect data on students and staff who need follow-up phone calls based on information entered,” Harder said. “It also collects contact tracing data and our nurses can set quarantine periods for students and staff when there has been an exposure.”

As far as changes in these COVID-19 protocols for this school year go, Harder said a flexible approach to the school year’s guidelines will be important in keeping students as safe as possible while ensuring their school experience returns to normal.

The first day of school was Sept. 8, and parents used the new Safety iPass app for the first time. Katy Dormer, mother of a fifth and seventh grader in the CSD, found the app difficult to navigate but ultimately could see its benefit in preventing COVID-19 outbreaks at school.

“I know the app will get better and easier to use as I figure it out more,” Dormer said. “And I can definitely see its use for cataloging data about COVID-19 exposure.”

The CSD wants to ensure a full year of in-person learning, but they’re ready to change their guidelines and willing to remain flexible if COVID-19 rates increase or decrease significantly during the school year.

“I think if school leaders have learned anything in the last 18 months of COVID-19, it is not to predict what is next,” Harder said. “The Oregon Department of Education will continue its work with the Oregon Health Authority to monitor COVID-19 trends and make decisions that help keep our students and staff safe while providing a full year of in-person school for Oregon students.”

Rocío Muñoz, a health equity and communications representative from the Benton County Health Department, said Benton County will monitor infection rates and work with the school district in order to best benefit students through changing circumstances during the school year.

“As schools plan for the school year, it is important to remember that COVID-19 continues to change with new variants and our knowledge of mitigation efforts grows over time,” Muñoz said. “Being prepared can make this difficult time easier, and will help children transition to and from the classroom.”