By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Bend-La Pine Schools and Summit High officials were mum on Thursday after at least a dozen students tested positive for COVID while county health officials scrambled to set up a rapid testing clinic to “assess the potential presence of COVID-19 in the school community and community as a whole.”
In a letter to families Wednesday, Summit High School Principal Michael McDonald said a COVID-positive person was in the school during the first week students were back for in-person instruction.
That exposure may be the result of a weekend party attended by dozens of teens who were not wearing masks or maintaining social distance, he said.
The school was closed Thursday while school activity and athletic programs were canceled through Monday so administrators could work with county health officials to investigate the exposure and conduct contact tracing.
The principal and school district officials declined our requests for interviews Thursday.
Additionally, coaches at the school urged athletes not to talk to the media about a situation.
Deschutes County Public Health, however, will offer free testing.
“We are working on setting up a mass testing event for any student who feels like they might have been exposed to COVID 19 about a week ago,” said Emily Freeland, Deschutes County environmental health specialist. “Last weekend we feel like there was the possibility of an exposure and we want to make sure that testing is available and accessible.”
Late Thursday the district announced the testing clinic would be held Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pilot Butte Middle School.
“At the time of the writing of this message, students from one area high school appear to be among a cluster of 12 COVID-19 positive youth, identified in the last +/-24 hours, who may have connections to the party. There are currently no other known clusters of students,” the letter said.
Those who plan to attend the event are asked to complete this survey, which will aid in staffing and testing supply planning.
The survey simply asks that you share the number of persons in your family who plan to partake in the event tomorrow.
“This testing event is being held to help identify and assess the potential presence of COVID-19 in the school community and the community as a whole; to encourage any children or adults who attended gatherings unmasked and without practicing social distancing, over the weekend, to take advantage of the free testing; to provide tests to anyone who was not at a gathering but was in contact with someone who was; and for the broader school community to obtain a COVID-19 test at no cost and without a physician appointment.”
District and county COVID-19 case investigators are continuing to contact trace COVID exposures (potentially both primary and secondary exposures) following a large party in Bend over the weekend.
You are encouraged to send your students and/or family members to this event if they may have had contact with someone five or more days ago who has since tested positive for COVID-19.
Those under the age of 15 will need the consent of a parent or guardian to complete testing.
Test results will be available about 15-minutes after your test is complete.
In the letter to families, McDonald said he was “disappointed that dozens of local youths were in attendance at a confirmed party, unmasked and crowded together.”
He expressed concern the party may have created a super-spreader environment that could jeopardize the return to in-person instruction and other school-related activities.
Information about the free COVID testing will be communicated directly to Summit High School students and families.
McDonald says sanctions will not be levied against students who take the COVID tests and who might have been at the party.
You can read the full letter to families below:Feb 11 CDL Ltr