Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 notified families Saturday that the high school would be transitioning to online learning through Nov. 6 because of multiple positive cases of the virus. The school had four active positive cases as of Tuesday, Superintendent Walt Cooper told The Gazette.
Contact tracing revealed connections to a positive case at a nearby burger spot, students with family members who have tested positive, and a club sport team. That tracing also revealed an off-campus student get-together, “but to date we haven’t identified any virus spread attributed to that party,” Cooper said.
“A lot of quarantined students … were there, but no confirmed positive cases as of today,” he said about a party allegedly held at the home of El Paso County First Assistant District Attorney Diana May the weekend before last.
May told The Gazette through a county spokeswoman that the “complaint outdoor gathering” was not responsible for any case of COVID-19 connected to the school, based on the information she has, and that “any other rumors along that same line of reasoning is likewise false.”
“I strongly dispel the inaccurate information that is being shared on social media platforms regarding this event and discourage the cyberbullying and harassment that I hear is taking place between parents and students based on misinformation,” May said in a statement.
“As an attorney, former prosecutor and county attorney, I believe we all have the obligation to honor the law,” her statement continued. “That is why when a small group of parents approached me to find a way to have a modest outdoor gathering while following state and local COVID guidelines, I figured I was in a good position to help. This group of kids socialize together in some formation in sports, social events, family events, religious events and personal events daily. This was a small supervised celebration for a small group of [Cheyenne Mountain High School] kids who socialize together in some formation daily.”
On Oct. 23, nearly a week after the event, a parent of a student who went to the gathering informed other parents that their child became sick the Monday or Tuesday after the event and “had just tested positive,” May said. “At this time, my understanding is that there is no evidence of transmission or spread from the outdoor event on our 5-acre property.”
Cooper said the district would have had to close the high school and shift to online learning “regardless of whether the reported party was held or not,” and that if other contacts had not occurred, the school would still be operating as usual.
“Over the course of the last two days we have also learned of additional off-campus gatherings that have involved students mixing cohorts and creating other possible exposures,” Cooper said. “We have not yet had any identified positive cases from these other events, either, but these gatherings do make me nervous.”
The statement didn’t change the mind of Marti Markus, the mother of a junior at the high school and a first grader at the district’s Gold Camp Elementary School. She called the party “incredibly irresponsible” and “egregious behavior.”
“Not only did they put their kids at risk, they put other kids at risk, and the teachers,” Markus said, adding that she would like to see the children of the event’s organizers face repercussions like being barred from school temporarily.
District 12’s Skyway Elementary School has also temporarily shifted to online learning, Cooper said, citing two active positive cases that didn’t qualify the school as an outbreak site. In both cases, precautionary quarantines that included staff, paired with a virtually nonexistent substitute pool, made online learning a necessity, he said.
“It’s not because of a large number of confirmed positive cases, it’s the result of required quarantines that happen with every positive case,” he said. “What’s happening in the county is not because what’s happening in the schools. Positives at schools “are as a result of what’s happening in the community. Every aspect of the community has to get better or we’re going to lose in-person learning. We’re going to suffer the effects of what’s happening in the county.”
The district has recorded 14 positive student cases and no positive staff cases this school year.
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