COVID-19 outbreak closes East County elementary school

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of the Lakeside Union School District’s superintendent’s name.

LAKESIDE, Calif. — A Lakeside elementary school will shift to online learning after a COVID-19 outbreak was confirmed.

The Lakeside Union School District said 12 cases of coronavirus were confirmed at Winter Gardens Elementary School during the last two weeks, which led school leaders to shift all classes online beginning Dec. 4.

“In following the guidelines we have received from public health on school closures, we have decided to close the Winter Gardens campus for 15 days,” Superintendent Andy Johnsen said in a letter to parents. “We will move the entire Winter Gardens program to distance learning. ESS will also be closed during this time.”

The Winter Gardens campus has 308 teachers, staff and students. The 12 positive cases makes up just shy of 5 percent of the population on campus.

Local health leaders recommend closing a school when there are multiple cases in multiple cohorts on campus, or when at least 5 percent of the total number of staff and students test positive within a 14-day period.

The school district said they consulted public health leaders, who recommended the closure. Cleaning and disinfection are underway and in-person instruction is scheduled to resume after winter break on Jan 4.

Staff members and students who may have come into close contact with the positive individuals were contacted by San Diego County Public Health with further instructions, according to the district.

“Because of how COVID-19 spreads, public health officials have indicated that all of us should consider ourselves as being potentially exposed,” Johnsen said.

The district is warning students, parents and staff to monitor for symptoms. They could be mild to severe and include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills without a fever, sore throat, muscle aches and pains and temporary loss of smell or taste. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or up to 14 days after exposure. Anyone experiencing symptoms should self-isolate and contact a doctor.

“I know this information is concerning, and the shift to distance learning may create an unexpected hardship. Our district health team continues to work with Public Health and the San Diego County Office of Education to continue monitoring the situation and we are following all public health guidelines strictly,” Johnsen said.

Anyone with questions or concerns is asked to contact Principal Grace Cox at gcox@lsusd.net or Natalie Winspear, executive director of pupil services, at nwinspear@lsusd.net.

Full letter to parents:

Dear Winter Gardens Parents/Guardians and staff members,

I am writing to let you know that we have had several additional positive COVID cases reported at Winter Gardens this week. Public Health has determined that we are experiencing a COVID outbreak at Winter Gardens Elementary School. There have been 12 positive cases identified at Winter Gardens over the last two weeks and in following the guidelines we have received from public health on school closures, we have decided to close the Winter Gardens campus for 15 days. Starting December 4, 2020 we will move the entire Winter Gardens program to distance learning. ESS will also be closed during this time. Classes will continue in a distance learning format through December 18, 2020. At this time, we plan to reopen for in-person instruction on January 4, 2021.

Due to procedures related to privacy laws, I am limited in what I can say, and I urge you to also respect the privacy of our students and staff. However, it is essential that we share what we can to ensure anyone that may have been in contact with the individual is aware of their potential exposure and can self-quarantine and monitor any illness.

Staff members and students that may have come into close contact with the positive individuals have been directly contacted by San Diego County Public Health with further instructions.

Because of how COVID-19 spreads, public health officials have indicated that all of us should consider ourselves as being potentially exposed. As you know, virus symptoms can range from mild to severe and could include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills without a fever, sore throat, muscle aches and pains, and temporary loss of smell or taste. Symptoms may appear in a few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Anyone experiencing symptoms should self-isolate and contact your doctor. If you’re feeling ill, it is recommended that you separate from others in the home, wear a face mask, cover coughs and sneezes, clean hands and surfaces often, and avoid sharing personal items. It is important to monitor symptoms for potential worsening. It should be emphasized that anyone who is ill should stay home except to get medical care.

I know this information is concerning, and the shift to distance learning may create an unexpected hardship. Our district health team continues to work with Public Health and the San Diego County Office of Education to continue monitoring the situation and we are following all public health guidelines strictly. Thank you for your continued support and understanding.

If you have questions or concerns about this information, please contact Grace Cox, Principal at gcox@lsusd.net or Natalie Winspear, Executive Director of Pupil Services at nwinspear@lsusd.net. We thank you for your cooperation and support.

Sincerely,
Andy Johnsen, Ed.D.
Superintendent

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