COVID cases, unfortunately, continue to interrupt campus life in the Denair Unified School District.
Among those affected this week are 165 students at Denair Elementary Charter Academy who are quarantined because of an exposure to a single person who tested positive for COVID. The impact also was felt at Denair High School, where 82 students are in quarantine, including the entire varsity and junior varsity football and volleyball teams.
The situation is not unique to Denair, said Superintendent Terry Metzger. Many school districts across Stanislaus County also have experienced waves of COVID-related exposures and quarantines because of the highly contagious delta variant.
“Last week we had a couple of big exposures … and it resulted in a lot of people having to go into quarantine, either modified or at home,” she said. “It feels like that was a wake-up call for our community. ‘Oh, OK. So what do we do now?’ ”
Metzger and her team are literally working seven days a week to manage the situation. That often means explaining how the quarantine rules work for concerned parents. The district posted a Frequently Asked Questions document on its website earlier this week in an effort to address confusion. Essentially, the system works like this:
- Vaccinated students exposed to someone with COVID do not need to quarantine unless they show symptoms.
- Unvaccinated students who are masked at the time of exposure to a confirmed positive may qualify for a modified quarantine. This means the student may come to school as long as they are not symptomatic, wear a mask at all times, avoid groups/maintain physical distance and do not participate in sports or activities. Students on modified quarantine may be contagious even if they don’t have symptoms so they need to be cautious around others. Students on modified quarantine typically are tested twice during a modified eight-day quarantine.
- Unvaccinated students who were unmasked at the time of exposure, or who are showing any symptoms, must quarantine at home for at least eight days and test negative twice for COVID. Class assignments will be sent to them via packets or links to online lessons.
“People clearly are not understanding what modified quarantine means,” Metzger said. “Essentially, the message I want to get out is this: If your child is exposed and they’re not vaccinated, they are ordered to quarantine. Even if they come to school, they have to isolate from others. That means keeping their distance from others, including at lunch, and not participating in extracurricular activities.”
She also cautioned that not every student who gets COVID gets off easy.
“It’s not true that everyone is asymptomatic; some kids are getting very sick. Some families are very sick. That’s concerning,” Metzger said. “We know that we’ve had adults and kids who have been hospitalized, had to go to the emergency room or get breathing treatments.”
Students have been affected the most in the recent wave, she said. Only 11 staff members currently are in quarantine.
At the high school, the varsity and JV football players are in quarantine after three players tested positive for COVID last week.
The situation forced the Coyotes to cancel two games – last Saturday’s road contest against George Washington High in San Francisco as well as this Friday’s Southern League home opener against Ripon Christian.
“We all practice together, so everybody’s potentially exposed,” said head coach Anthony Armas, who hopes to have most of his players cleared to begin practicing again Monday in preparation for the Sept. 24 game against Gustine.
Armas, who is vaccinated so did not have to quarantine, admitted it’s easy to become frustrated with the circumstances. He said it’s the “most difficult thing I’ve ever dealt with” in seven years as a coach.
“But at the same time, we try to keep a positive attitude,” he said. “We talked to the kids. We’ve told them ever since the start of last year that it’s the situation, the hand we’ve been dealt, so make the best of it. What happens, we’ll deal with it, just keep moving forward. The kids are frustrated, too. It’s a tough life lesson.”
Between the pandemic and California wildfires, Denair has only played two games this season, losing twice at home — 24-6 to Vacaville Christian on Aug. 20 and 34-28 in overtime to Franklin on Sept. 3. A game in Sparks, Nev., on Aug. 27 was canceled because of unhealthy air conditions caused by the Dixie and Caldor wildfires in the Sierra.
“Coaching wise, football is all about routine and consistency, and we haven’t had any,” Armas said. “Every time we hear something, we try to adapt. We’ve had so many depth charts, it’s just crazy. Both games we played, we didn’t have all our guys. Planning is literally day to day and really hour to hour.”
Cancellation of this Friday’s game also delayed the dedication of the high school sports complex in the name of the Denair Lions Club. That ceremony will be rescheduled for later this fall.