How some San Antonio, Boerne school districts are dealing with COVID-19 contact tracing

Local schools following different safety guidelines, share approaches

When it comes to contact tracing COVID-19 cases in the classroom, several area school districts are handling it differently than others.

Emma Kelly, assistant director of health services for NEISD, said they are not contact tracing.

“The number of cases that are currently being experienced in the community, so then also in the schools, is a high enough number that it would just take so much time to contact trace each of those cases. Not to say that the reason we are not is because we don’t have the time. We would make the time if it were possible. Another thing that makes it very difficult is that it’s an environment where mask use isn’t universal. That makes it very difficult to contact trace,” Kelly said.

Kelly said they still gather information from parents of students who test positive for COVID-19 and they notify parents who have kids in the same classroom.

In North East ISD, for the week ending September 5th, they had a total of 523 COVID cases.

Kelly said they also report positive cases to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

“We’ve been in really clear communication with them that we are not able to contact trace and they are conducting contact tracing,” Kelly said.

At San Antonio ISD, as of the end of August, they’ve had about 800 total COVID cases.

The district’s associate superintendent Toni Thompson said contact tracing is important.

“A student tests positive, the nurse, the campus nurse is going to be the one to first talk to the parent to gather information to determine when did the student first show symptoms? When did the student test? Where did the student test?” Thompson said.

Thompson said they also send out forms to teachers to learn more about the students.

“We don’t identify the positive child by name for HIPPA reasons, but they still ask them general questions about, you know, how closely are your students seated together during the class or in the classroom?” Thompson said.

Thompson said they also rely on cafeteria seating charts in elementary schools and at high schools, they are using cameras in the cafeteria to help with contact tracing.

“The goal is to make sure that we’re quarantining those that really are considered high-risk exposures to keep them safe and to keep others safe. But the other goal is to make sure that we’re not overly quarantining individuals who really don’t need to be quarantined so that they can be at school because it’s just so important for them to be in person,” Thompson said.

At Boerne ISD, as of August 29, they had a total of 207 cases.

Students and staff aren’t required to quarantine if exposed to an infected person and masks are optional.

The district emails parents about COVID-19 cases in their child’s classroom. They also social distance when possible, use plexiglass dividers and regularly disinfect areas.

Boerne ISD parent Heather Riebel is concerned with the school’s safety protocols. She said her son who attends a school in Boerne ISD recently quarantined.

“By last Friday, we had received two emails in two days with three confirmed positive exposures in his class,” Riebel said.

Riebel said something needs to be done.

“We absolutely have to start wearing masks again,” Riebel said.

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About the Authors:

Tiffany Huertas is a reporter for KSAT 12 known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.