Sacramento County Department of Public Health Intervenes at New Joseph Bonnheim Due to COVID Outbreak Among Students and Staff
While classes for most SCUSD students began yesterday, at two schools--New Joseph Bonnheim Elementary School and New Tech High School--classes started on August 9th.
At both schools, despite a relatively small number of students (270 at New Joseph Bonnheim and 150 at New Tech), there have been numerous cases of COVID.
At New Joseph Bonnheim, there have been at least 23 cases, although the District's dashboard only lists 17. An additional six new cases were reported yesterday morning. As a result, the Sacramento County Department of Public ordered mandatory testing of all students and staff today.
The problems at New Joseph Bonnheim are significant.
- Many of the 23 positive cases have been NJB staff, resulting in classes going uncovered because the District does not have enough subs to fill the vacancies. Classes have been combined; the principal has had to take one of the combined classes. As a result, instruction to students has been hindered.
- Because the District hasn't been able to replace custodial staff, cleaning at the school site has not been maintained, further exacerbating the situation.
- The District's contact tracing has not been thorough. In some cases, teachers were not informed of positive cases in their classrooms, in other instances, teachers were not asked about student contacts before or after school, during recess and lunch, and even movement within the classroom, but rather the District relied upon the seating chart.
- Today's COVID tests consisted only of the rapid BANTIX test, which is far less accurate than the PCR test. Several staff reported several negative rapid tests, only to learn they tested positive for COVID (even though they were vaccinated) after taking the PCR test.
- Contrary to what Superintendent Aguilar told the school board last night, that it was unlikely that transmission occurred at the school site, today Health Service Director Victoria Flores told staff that the District didn't know if transmission occurred at the school site.
- When asked directly if he would close the school site temporarily, Superintendent Aguilar stated even if the Sacramento County Department of Public recommended a temporary school closure, he would only do so if ordered by SCDPH.
- Attendance at the school has dropped precipitously. On the first day of classes, the District reported that 237 of the 270 students enrolled attended class. On Day 2, the number of attendees had fallen to 209. Today it was reported the number was 164. SCDPH based its calculation of the school's positivity rate of 7.8 using an enrollment of 270 with 23 staff. A more accurate number, based on today's attendance would yield a positivity rate of 12.2% (23 cases out of 164 students and 23 staff).
In a meeting this afternoon that included Superintendent Aguilar, Chief Academic Officer Christine Baeta, and Chief Business Officer Rose Ramos, NJB staff passionately expressed their frustration with the District. Several teachers stated they felt lied to when the District said it was safe to return to in-person instruction and many of the mitigations measures were not in place.
Staff expressed their belief that it was not safe to return on Tuesday.
Late this evening, in a meeting with parents, the District announced that classes would continue on Tuesday.
Superintendent Aguilar did not attend the meeting with parents.