Gunnison Watershed and WCU students start year strong

Dealing with COVID and other issues

[ by Mark Reaman ]

Both the Gunnison Watershed School District and Western Colorado University started classes for the 2021-22 school year last week and early indications are that in terms of the COVID-19 situation, things have gotten off on the right foot. On top of that, the Crested Butte Community School is handling the shortage of bus drivers and kitchen staff in stride as well.

“The first week of school went well,” said GWSD school superintendent Leslie Nichols. “The resilient CBCS community has persisted in making transportation work thanks to the RTA, Mountain Express, our local law enforcement personnel and our amazing CBCS PTA parent bus stop chaperone volunteers! While we had a strong week of food service to start, that model was unsustainable and we’ve had to scale back to sack breakfasts and lunches – and that effort is also only possible due to our CBCS PTA volunteers!”

Nichols gave special recognition to new PTA president Margaux Helvey for “rallying all the troops to volunteer. We are so grateful.”
As for handling health concerns with the coronavirus situation, Nichols said it has been steady. “Our COVID management is also strong,” she said. “We were happy to have the state vaccine bus on campus this past Friday to increase vaccine access, and this will continue every three weeks for the foreseeable future. Our ventilation efforts are going well with HEPA filters in every classroom and office, and windows and doors open. We health screen all staff and students daily and sick folks are staying home.”

She said the district illness and quarantine protocols are being managed well, and “we are assisting folks who need to be scheduled for testing. Our contact tracing is strong, as needed. We continue to strive for a positive culture around mask wearing, and keep emphasizing hand washing, respiratory etiquette, physical distancing, cleaning/sanitizing/disinfecting and reducing contacts as well.”
Nichols said she hopes to have the data reporting system for COVID back up soon but admitted that a workforce shortage exists in the district’s health team as well “and this has limited our data reporting ability. We have had no outbreaks.”

University students going strong
Over at WCU, there are some students in quarantine but that doesn’t mean they have all tested positive for COVID. University communications officer Chris Rourke noted, “they may just be ill and are awaiting test results,” of the 14 people currently on the list.
“We feel confident about the start of school,” said Rourke. “Our students, faculty and staff have really stepped up to participate in vaccination, testing and following health protocols. By doing this, we have the best opportunity of maintaining in-person instruction by preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

She said the staff vaccination rate is currently at 85.5 percent and none of them are reporting any COVID symptoms. The student vaccination rate is at about 81 percent.

“We continue to encourage vaccinations and have partnered with both Gunnison County Health and Human Services and the state to offer vaccination clinics,” Rourke said.

Masks are required indoors in public spaces at WCU and unvaccinated faculty, staff and students will be tested once a week for COVID-19.

Pre-school scare but it’s just normal…
Meanwhile, parents with kids in a Crested Butte pre-school had a bit of scare Monday. Some reported that almost two dozen students at Stepping Stones were ill this week. Gunnison County public information officer Loren Ahonen said the county was notified and widespread COVID testing was done Tuesday morning.

“Results from the approximately 70 tests were all negative,” he said. “There are some pending tests that have been sent out for lab processing. The school has worked with the HHS (Health and Human Services) team including their nurse consultant to implement frequent symptom screenings and will continue to follow their school guideline for when children/staff should stay home or leave the center as well as when individuals who have been out ill can return to the center (assuring appropriate resolution of illness).”
In other words, it was just another day at any pre-school.

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