Update on Hillcrest High School & COVID-19
October 29, 2020
Hillcrest High Community,
As you are aware, greater numbers of our students have been identified as close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases, either at school or extracurricular activities, over the past couple of weeks. Following Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines for schools, we have informed these students that they should quarantine for 14 days, and should not return to school or extracurricular activities until this period has ended.
At this time, Hillcrest High School has:
- Approximately 900 students registered for on-campus learning.
- Approximately 120 students who we have informed this week they should quarantine for 14 days.
- 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within our on-campus student population. These students are not at school at this time. Many of these students were already not at school, due to previous close contact with a COVID-19 case, when the student’s parent/guardian informed us that the student was COVID-19 positive. We also believe greater numbers of our students are currently choosing to be tested, resulting in the discovery of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.
The current number of known positive COVID-19 cases within Hillcrest High students equates to approximately 2 percent of our current on-campus student population. The confirmed positive cases are all connected to different student groups, which has resulted in the significant number of students identified as close contacts. It is important to note that sending close contacts home for quarantine is an important practice, identified by public health officials, in preventing further spread of COVID-19. It is also important to note that 120 is the number of students identified as close contacts, not as positive COVID-19 cases.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases within our Hillcrest High student population, and subsequently, the number of students needing to quarantine, is certainly cause for concern. In keeping with the pattern we have seen across our school system since the start of the school year, parent/guardian information indicates to us that the majority of student COVID-19 cases are being contracted outside of school. While we cannot ensure that no one will contract COVID-19 on one of our campuses, we believe the social distancing measures and cleaning practices within our schools are effective.
To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within our community, and its effects on our school, we ask our students and families to please practice the habits of social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, and cleaning, that we practice in our schools. Your help in this, in the hours you are not at school, is absolutely critical to keeping our school open and our students and educators healthy.
When a student is identified as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case in our schools, the student and their parent/guardian will receive a letter. There is a statement in the letter that reads:
“If your child tests negative for COVID-19 during their quarantine, and has a release from their medical provider, he/she may return to school if the release clearly states that along with the negative test, the medical provider is aware of the possible exposure and has cleared the student to return to school.”
It is our intention and expectation that students who are determined by our schools to be close contacts of a COVID-19 case will follow Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines and quarantine for 14 days. The statement above references an instance where there may be HIPPA-protected information, between a student and their medical provider, that the school is not aware of, but would allow them to return to school before the 14-day quarantine period ends. An instance such as this may exist, but would be rare. The purpose of the statement in the letter is to let a student and their parent/guardian know that a negative COVID-19 test alone, even accompanied by a doctor’s release, will not allow a student to return to school prior to the end of their quarantine period. The release from the physician must state that the physician is also aware of the possible exposure, and is still clearing them to return to school, before the ADPH-recommended quarantine period has ended. Again, a situation like this should be rare, but TCSS has been advised by the Alabama State Department of Education that our school nurses should accept a physician’s release in this instance.
As we move into a weekend where there will be many Halloween events and other activities, we ask our Hillcrest High community to please be extremely mindful of the practices health experts say are effective in fighting COVID-19. Again, your support is vital and necessary in achieving our goal of keeping Hillcrest open for our students. As challenging as this situation is, we do believe we will come out of this time stronger and better prepared to overcome adversity.
Principal, Hillcrest High School
Keri Johnson, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Tuscaloosa County School System
Director of Nursing, Tuscaloosa County School System