Philomath School District, Philomath Elementary School aerial
The Philomath School District Office and Philomath Elementary School (File photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

A COVID-19 outbreak at Philomath Elementary School occurred this week with four students testing positive and 18 students under quarantine — those numbers accurate as of Thursday afternoon. In addition, Blodgett Elementary has been closed down with all students temporarily moved to distance learning.

“At this time, it truly takes a village to keep COVID-19 spread to a minimum,” Philomath Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday said, adding that she would be reaching out to families with information through the district’s messaging system. “Diligence in following protocols in schools and community are essential to support our children. We also know that some families have medical concerns that put any exposure to COVID at a higher level of risk.”

Laura Bryant, district nurse, said that two of the PES cases were related to household exposure and two others were connected to flag football. She also said that another school district has one flag football player that tested positive and there could be more with the Philomath Youth Activities Club program featuring student athletes from various school districts in the area.

PYAC Executive Director Eddie Van Vlack confirmed that the flag football program had been halted for two weeks from Oct. 11 when the situation was discovered. Thus, a date for the activity to start up again should be around Oct. 25.

“Our board voted to follow all PSD protocols so as soon as we were aware of the exposure/positive test, we immediately turned the information over to the district nurse,” Van Vlack said. “They in turn did their research and told us to put the program on hold for two weeks.”

The COVID outbreak has impacted students in grades 3, 4 and 5, Bryant said. Those students were last in class on Monday.

No staff members have been required to quarantine.

Bryant said this is the first time that a COVID cluster has been connected with a particular activity with others earlier this year traced only to households. She said the school district calls families when their students have been identified as close contacts and follows the phone call “with a letter that outlines students’ quarantine dates, which symptoms to watch for and how to access distanced learning materials.”

Blodgett Elementary’s in-person program has gone dark for at least two weeks. According to a September enrollment report, Blodgett had 23 students.

“Teachers are using today (Thursday) and tomorrow to prepare for the transition to distance learning with plans to have materials available for families to pick up tomorrow (Friday),” Halliday said.

The students will be able to return physically to the school on Oct. 27.

“Teachers have done a great job of communicating with families and making all appropriate arrangements,” Halliday said. “Meals will still be available for students.”

Halliday said Corvallis School District Food Services, Philomath’s meal provider, has established a pre-order form for families to complete. Pre-ordered meals can be picked up at the school on Monday, Oct. 18 (five days of meals) and Monday, Oct. 25 (two days of meals).

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