Students coming to school when sick a major concern in southern Utah

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) – As COVID-19 cases continue to rapidly increase in the St. George area, the Washington County School District says it’s more important than ever for students to stay home when sick. However, school administrators say a lack of compliance from parents may be threatening their ability to keep schools open.

According to Steven Dunham, the district’s director of communications, school officials are being forced to send dozens of sick students home every week, which may require staff members to be placed on quarantine.

“It’s safe to say we’re sending several students from each school in the district home every day,” Dunham said. “Our single largest concern right now is employees becoming sick. Our COVID-positive employees went from 50 before the holiday break to 76 as of Tuesday.”

Dunham said the school district is empowering its employees to send sick students to the front office, where parents will be asked to pick them up. While administrators say they can usually find a substitute for a sick teacher, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find additional staff when secretaries, administrators, lunch workers, or bus drivers must quarantine.

“Right now, there are no plans in place to shut schools down, but we may find ourselves in a situation where we cannot safely operate a school because too many staff members are sick and then be forced to shut down,” Dunham said. “That’s why it’s so critical that we all work together and be cooperative to keep schools open for the kids.”

As of Tuesday, there are 76 employees and 22 students in Washington County testing positive for COVID-19 in addition to 358 students or employees that have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and are currently out of school or work in quarantine.

“Our numbers are down, but we anticipated that following the Thanksgiving holiday because we haven’t had cases reported to us and we’ve had so many students come off of quarantine,” Dunham said. “We are anticipating a spike by the end of this week and early next week.”

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