Oak Harbor schools reports 1st confirmed COVID-19 case in a staffer

The person was not identified through batch testing.

The first positive COVID-19 case among staff in Oak Harbor Public Schools was identified as someone who worked with the Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Center and the Home Connection programs, according to a district spokesperson.

During a meeting on Dec. 18 to discuss legislative priorities with local state lawmakers, Superintendent Lance Gibbon said the sick staff member is the only positive test among staff that the district is aware of.

District Communication Officer Conor Laffey said in an email Monday that the district learned about the staff member’s positive COVID-19 test on Thursday, Dec. 10 and notified families and staff the same day.

The early learning and homeschooling programs are housed at the former Clover Valley Elementary school building near Ault Field.

The staff member had not been in the building since Friday, Dec. 4, Laffey said.

The staff member had close contact with “some students from a particular classroom,” Laffey said, meaning he or she was within six feet or less of students for at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period.

Island County Public Health recommended that Cohort B go into quarantine on Friday, Dec. 11 because of the “age of the students and the close interaction between students and staff in the program,” Laffey said.

Students returned to class on Thursday, Dec. 17 and were healthy during and after the quarantine period, according to Laffey.

No students in either program have tested positive for the virus during the previous three months of in-person, hybrid classes.

Pre-K through sixth grade students, including those at the Hand-in-Hand and HomeConnection programs, have attended hybrid in-person classes for the past three months, Laffey added.

Two students tested positive for the virus at North Whidbey Middle School in October and December, respectively.

Laffey said the staff member’s positive result was not discovered through the district’s batch testing.

The school district began offering batch testing for teachers and staff at the beginning of the year and have completed four batch tests; out of 1,200 tests, none has come back positive, he said.

The district is offering free weekly testing to teachers and staff as it prepares to bring Pre-K through sixth grade students back to in-person classes on a hybrid rotation after winter break and one week of distance-only learning during the first week of January.

Staff will be required to complete testing during the first week of January.

If more than 3 percent of staff tests positive during that time, in-person classes will be delayed by two weeks.

If less than 3 percent tests positive, in-person classes will begin Jan. 11.