BARTLETT — Josiah Bartlett Elementary is the latest school in SAU 9 to report its first case of COVID-19. School officials notified the public Thursday that a positive case had been determined and about 20 students and a Bartlett school bus driver will have to quarantine for two weeks.
Meanwhile, as students and staff returned to Kennett Middle School after a 14-day quarantine, four additional cases of the coronavirus were reported at the seventh- and eighth-grade campus.
“Most of it stemmed from different activities outside of school,” Superintendent Kevin Richard told the Sun on Thursday morning. “Obviously, it’s a concern when we have that many cases.”
He added: “I think we’re starting to see the results of ‘Thanksgiving freedoms.’”
Richard said he could not disclose whether the diagnosed people were students or staff. He said it’s unknown how they contracted the virus.
Richard alerted SAU 9 students, families and staff via email and on the SAU website about the Bartlett case around noontime.
Jackson Grammar is the lone school in SAU 9 yet to report a COVID case.
Kennett High School reported its first case on Oct. 8, which led to 10 students having to quarantine for two weeks. There was another positive case at KHS on Nov. 13. Close to 50 people students and staff were required to quarantine for 14 days.
On Oct. 20, a single case was reported at Conway Elementary School. A classroom of students and their teacher had to quarantine.
On Oct. 29, John H. Fuller Elementary in North Conway saw its first positive case, leading to 10 students and three adults quarantining.
On Nov. 13, Pine Tree School in Center Conway reported two cases, resulting possibly from an outside event, which led to 50 students from across the Conway School District, MSAD 72 and local charter schools quarantining for two weeks.
On Nov. 20, Kennett Middle School reorted two positive cases on the campus. The school went to distance learning until returning Thursday.
“All of the cases appear to be isolated,” Richard said. “I think this shows when we have to quarantine, people are taking it seriously.”
At Tuesday night’s Bartlett School Board meeting, Principal Joe Yahna praised the community for being vigilant. “We’re just seeing every day as a success,” he said. “Every day that we’re here with our students is a good day.”
He added: “So far, everything’s coming back negative, but that continues to be a daily thing that we are asking our students and families (to stay on top on it). We appreciate that people are doing that.”
There are roughly 200 students at the JBES, which runs from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. Yahna said 80 percent are doing face-to-face instruction.
“The staff have all been going above and beyond every day,” Yahna replied. “They’re tired, but they recognize it’s important to keep doing the work.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Richard spoke about the coronavirus.
“One of the things that we’re seeing, and I would expect to see it more here in Bartlett very shortly is the impact of having to quarantine either students and/or staff members, and it’s not necessarily because of the transmission within the schools,” he said.
“The schools are doing a really good job of this, but (culprits could be) outside influences in terms of somebody with a close contact with somebody who’s positive (COVID-19). And we’re really starting to see that impact on on the schools throughout the valley.”
He added: “It’s not just here, it’s everywhere, the numbers are increasing. The hope is to do everything that we can to keep the students in school, but it really is going to be a dynamic process.”
Richard praised school nurses across the SAU.
Board member Ivette Emery asked Richard what the current positivity rate is in Carroll County.
“Four percent,” he answered. “It’s crept up, it really has. The number of cases per 100,000, it jumped up to about 240 in Carroll County.”
JBES and the SAU office received phone calls over concerns about the Bartlett case on Thursday.
Richard said the district uses a 48-hour window in contact tracing individuals with whom a positive person may have come into contact over two days on the campus.
He recommends people get tested for the virus if they may have had contact with a positive person.
“We were going through our process,” Richard explained. “We like to inform people who had direct contact (with an individual) first. If you have a child that was in direct contact, you will be contacted by the school. If we don’t do that first, then you’re looking at 8,000 phone calls from people who are concerned.”
He added: “The good news, if there is any, is that the (transmission rate) in schools continues to be low. The cases appear to be coming from outside of school, which is proof that the schools are doing a good job.”
According to the state Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 Schools Dashboard, as of Thursday the level of transmission among Granite State colleges and schools was “substantial.” There have been 490.4 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days with .7 new hospitalizations per 100,000 over that period.
The seven-day total test positivity rate was at 7.2 percent.
There are 86 total cases. There have been 654 people who have recovered. There are currently 10 cluster cases. A coronavirus cluster occurs when there is a concentration of infections in the same area at the same time.