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Due to a positive COVID-19 case among its student body, St. Joseph High School in Orcutt will resume distance learning for all students until Nov. 16.

Due to a positive COVID-19 case among its student body, St. Joseph High School in Orcutt will resume distance learning for all students until Nov. 16, less than two weeks after the school began accepting back students for in-person learning. 

In a letter sent to school families Tuesday, St. Joseph Principal Erinn Dougherty said the case was confirmed following a Halloween party over the weekend, and that the school is entering a two-week quarantine as a precautionary measure. 

All in-person instruction and sports will cease during this time. 

"I wanted to ensure that we were able to go back to school after two weeks, so I'm asking you to please use these two weeks [to] nip this in the bud," Dougherty said to families. 

Under the school's Return to School Safer Plan, the school must close for at least one day if between one and two cases are confirmed to allow for deep sanitizing of surfaces, during which time students will continue with distance learning. 

According to Dougherty, the student, who remains unnamed due to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act restrictions, contracted COVID-19 through close contact with a student from another school on Friday. The student and several others were tested after feeling under the weather, she said. 

The student's last day of exposure to the school community was Monday, Dougherty said. On Tuesday, the school began its two-week quarantine. 

St. Joseph began to bring students back the week of Oct. 19 after schools were permitted to reopen in Santa Barbara County, with administrators highlighting its status as the first local high school to bring students back to campus.

By Oct. 23, the majority of the 400-person student body had returned for in-person learning, with thousands of dollars spent on safety measures including temperature screening machines, sneeze guards on desks, sanitizing supplies and personal protective equipment. 

"We've all worked so hard to be physically together on campus. That's the most important thing and that should be our priority," she said. 

School administrators are urging families not to gather in learning pods or for any other reason over the next two weeks, even if students remain asymptomatic, and to monitor students for future COVID-19 symptoms.

Dougherty said the school is also in contact with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department about the case. 

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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