A COVID-19 particle is pictured in this image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Two Baker Middle School students and one teacher have been quarantined this week after one of the students tested positive for COVID-19.

The teacher was deemed a close contact of the student who later tested positive.

The contact happened when the teacher was giving the student extra help with a paper, said Skye Flanagan, Baker Middle School principal.

Close proximity is defined as being within 6 feet of the person who has tested positive for longer than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

One other middle school student later also was identified as having been in close proximity with the student who tested positive, and the second student also was placed in quarantine, Superintendent Mark Witty said Monday.

The students will be able to continue their studies through the District’s comprehensive online learning platform.

Flanagan said the teacher was able to continue instructing the class from home while another staff member was in the classroom in person to provide assistance as needed. The teacher is expected to return to the school on Feb. 18, Flanagan said.

Witty announced Sunday, Feb. 7 in a press release that the Baker School District was notified Friday, Feb. 5, of the one student’s positive test result for COVID-19. The student contracted the virus during activities outside of school, Witty stated.

As the protocol requires, the District shared information about the group with whom the student who tested positive attends classes.

Since Jan. 25, the start of the second semester, middle school and high school students have been attending classes two days a week in cohort groups of 100 students each. They had been limited to one day a week of in-person classes in groups of 50 students each since Nov. 9 and before that had been receiving online instruction only since the start of school on Sept. 8.

A total of nine Baker School District students have tested positive for COVID-19 since classes started in September. None of those students contracted the virus at school, according to the school district and the Baker County Health Department.

The current case at BMS is the district’s first since Dec. 9.

Under the latest system, students observe the same protocols they did with the smaller protocol groups in place, Flanagan said.

While in class, the students sit at individual desks or tables and remain 6 feet apart, Flanagan said.

The principal said that when he learned one of his students had tested positive, it was easy for him to track the student’s whereabouts throughout the day with his own daily spreadsheet of student movement.

That information was then passed on to the Baker County Health Department. Staff there completed the contact tracing to identify the one student who had been in close proximity to the student who had tested positive, in addition to the one teacher already identified by the school, Witty said.

He said the limited quarantine at the middle school is different than what has been done at the elementary level during the year, when an entire class has been quarantined after one student tested positive. The reason for the difference, Witty said, is that the older students are easier to work with to ensure social distancing.

“At the lower grades we quarantine somewhat out of an abundance of caution,” Witty said.

Flanagan said he has been pleased with the response he’s seen from the middle school students to follow protocols in place to allow them to remain in class as much as state requirements allow at this time.

“It’s been good, really good,” he said of the return to a two-day schedule for all students. “There’s a little more bustle, more hubbub. It’s nice to hear a little more commotion.

“But they’re doing a good job of respecting the expectations,” he said of his students.

Flanagan said after meeting with school administrators from throughout the region on Thursday, Feb. 4, he came away with a new appreciation for the extent that Baker has been able to return students to their classrooms compared with other school districts.

“As tough as it is right now, we’re extremely lucky,” he said.

Witty said that in addition to continuing to follow the state’s protocols, he believes getting as many people vaccinated as possible also will help schools get back to normal.

He was among the 176 educators who received a first dose of vaccine on Jan. 29, behind those who work directly with students and those who have underlying health conditions, he said.

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