The Boulder Valley school board heard updates Tuesday on fire relief efforts, as well as challenges around rising case numbers because of the fast-spreading omicron variant.
On the impacts of the Marshall Fire, district officials reported that 506 students and 41 staff members lost homes, while 2,356 students and 192 staff members live within the burn area boundary. Many more, district officials said, were traumatized by the proximity and speed of the fire.
Superintendent Rob Anderson said he is “incredibly thankful” for the efforts of school staff members to get the eight schools in the fire zone ready for students, as well as to support students as they returned.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been prouder to be an educator,” he said.
The district has 10 trauma teams — comprised of Boulder Valley school counselors and psychologists plus some on loan from St. Vrain Valley and Adams 12 — working in schools. Those teams have seen 718 students.
With impacted employees given additional leave, district staff members from the Education Center are helping at schools. The district also temporarily increased its pay rate for substitute teachers.
Neil Anderson, principal at Louisville’s Monarch High School, said the focus is on making sure students feel secure and safe and have what they need to start moving forward with school.
“Our schools are our community centers,” he said.
On the pandemic, Boulder Valley Health Services Director Stephanie Faren and Boulder County and Broomfield public health officials provided an update, saying keeping students in school remains the priority.
“Everyone is rowing in a direction of keeping kids in school,” Boulder County Public Health Executive Director Camille Rodriguez said.
Isolation and quarantine guidelines have changed, with the length of time students and employees must stay home after a COVID-19 diagnosis reduced by the Colorado Health Department to reflect updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People with mild symptoms of COVID-19 can stop isolating after five days if they are fever-free for 24 hours without medication and if other symptoms improve, according to the guidance, according to the state health department.
When people end their isolation after five days, they should wear a mask around others at home and in public for another five days. Those who cannot wear a mask should isolate for a full 10 days, even if they have no symptoms, according to the agency.
Students and employees also are no longer required to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure if they’re fully vaccinated — defined by the Boulder Valley School District as all recommended doses including a booster for those 18 and older and two doses for those ages 5 to 18. A confirmed positive COVID-19 test in the past 90 days also eliminates the quarantine requirement.
Boulder Valley will not require quarantines for in-school exposures, including in kindergarten classes, Faren said. The school district, based on Boulder County Public Health guidance, also added a few requirements.
To eliminate the quarantine requirement for those who have previously had COVID, they must have tested positive on Dec. 19 or later, when omicron became the primary variant. An exposure while playing an indoor sport, such as basketball or wrestling, may require a quarantine.
To help families understand the new rules, Boulder Valley created a flow chart, which continues to urge all those who feel sick to stay home. Omicron symptoms often start with a scratchy throat, headaches and fatigue, health officials said, while the median time from exposure to infection appears to be three days.
Health officials said it looks like substantial transmission occurs before symptoms appear, with the highest risk of transmission within households. The virus is generally cleared from a vaccinated person’s system by day six. Vaccination, masking and ventilation appear to be the most effective mitigation strategies, officials said.
The Denver Post contributed to this report.