School district: ‘Community-wide notification will not be our practice’ on COVID-19 outbreaks
Parents of students in buildings with recent outbreaks will be notified moving forward
Saying the school district needs to “guard against emotional manipulation due to attention grabbing headlines,” Eagle County Schools on Thursday informed parents that the district will not issue community-wide notification when COVID-19 outbreaks occur in schools.
Superintendent Philip Qualman, in a letter to parents and staff which referenced a vaildaily.com story published on Wednesday, confirmed an outbreak did occur at Battle Mountain High School in the days leading up to the school’s Aug. 24 opening. But Qualman also said there is not a current outbreak at the school, despite the school’s listing as an active COVID-19 outbreak area in the state of Colorado’s weekly data update, issued Wednesday. The update says the illnesses were determined to be an outbreak on Aug. 19.
“Outbreaks (two or more cases) will happen throughout the year,” Qualman wrote. “We have plans in place to manage them, and as a community, we should resist panic when they occur.”
Parents of students at Battle Mountain High School were not notified of the most recent outbreak because school was not yet in session, Qualman wrote, adding that parents will be notified moving forward.
“With each outbreak, we will notify those directly impacted, which includes parents of students in that building, staff at that building, the Board of Education, district leadership, and (Eagle County Education Association) leadership,” Qualman wrote.
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“Community-wide notification will not be our practice,” he added. “It only serves to increase anxiety and has little to no relevance for those who are not directly impacted. It is important to guard against emotional manipulation due to attention grabbing headlines, gossip, conspiracy theories online, and other such efforts that serve to increase fear during these anxious moments.”
On Wednesday, the school district was contacted by a parent, as well as reporters from Colorado Public Radio and Chalkbeat, but the district did not disseminate a public statement on the COVID-19 outbreak at Battle Mountain until Thursday’s letter to parents. After being alerted of Battle Mountain’s inclusion in the active outbreak listing on Wednesday night, the Vail Daily published an initial draft of the story referenced by Qualman without comment from the district.
“We value our relationship with the Vail Daily and have asked that they hold off on late-night reporting until they’ve had a chance to reach out for clarifying context,” Qualman wrote.