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More than 30 quarantined after Fiesta Park softball games – Member of one women’s team tested positive for COVID-19

by Mark Craddock

 

WALSENBURG — The Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Department has contacted and quarantined dozens of participants of two softball games last week at Walsenburg’s Fiesta Park, after one of the participants was found to have tested positive for COVID-19.

The person who tested positive has been put into isolation.

According to an August 1 press release, the local health department learned that the person played in softball games on Tuesday, July 28, and Thursday, July 30, during women’s league action at the park.

“All persons who have been exposed to the person who tested positive for COVID-19 during the two softball games have been notified and are on a 14-day quarantine,” the release says. “Individuals should monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19. If they do not develop symptoms within 14 days of these dates, there is nothing to be done. Those that develop symptoms within 14 days of these dates should contact their doctor and consider COVID-19 testing.”

The news prompted a quick closure of Walsenburg Wild Waters Park over the weekend, because one of the staff members had participated in the softball game. According to a July 31 post on the Wild Waters Park Facebook page:

“I was just informed late this evening that one of my employees was exposed to an individual who had recently tested positive for COVID-19. They have been ordered to quarantine for 14 days. As a precaution, we will not be open this Saturday, August 1st or Sunday, August 2nd, due to the fact we, as in myself and other staff, were then exposed to this employee today; Friday July 31st. We are taking this precaution because I would like to seek more guidance from the health department when they open on Monday regarding information about staying open moving forward. Please understand the serious nature of this matter.

Update: This employee expressed to me they were exposed at the most recent softball games in Huerfano county at Fiesta Park on July 30th. Please continue to take care of yourselves in these challenging times as we work towards getting back to normal.”

The following day, the park got the all-clear, but remained closed due to unrelated problems:

“Good news regarding last nights post: After hearing from the director of health, only the employee who was exposed is to be quarantined. I wanted to be extra cautious regarding this matter. With that being said, we got the ok to remain open. Now, unfortunately, we will not be able to open up until a later date due to a mechanical malfunction discovered today. I will inform you of a re-opening date when I have a better idea. Thank you.”

On Tuesday night, the Walsenburg City Council voted 4-2 to close the pool for the rest of the season.

According to Jerad Lessar, volunteer coordinator of Huerfano rec. sports, the woman who tested positive competes on a local team, but lives in Pueblo.

He said she believes she contracted the virus from a coworker.

In all, Lessar said, about 30-35 people were quarantined, with participants living “anywhere from from Trinidad to La Veta to Walsenburg to Pueblo.”

Lessar said he has put league play on hold for the next two weeks, at which time he will decide how to proceed.

“The health department put everybody on a 14-day quarantine, so I shut the league down for the next two weeks,” he said.

“I wanted to see if anything comes out of this before I decided to finish the league up or cancel the season altogether.”

He said the league has taken steps to keep things COVID-19 safe, and the participants have largely complied.

“For anybody in close quarters, such as dugouts, we ask them to wear masks and we provide hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray in each dugout,” Lessar said. “Actually, the players have responded well in terms of keeping their distance and not fighting.”

The same has largely been true with spectators, he said.

“Pretty much everybody has been pretty good at staying by their vehicles,” he said. “In the stands, they have stayed spread out. I think people are pretty self-conscious at this point.”

County Administrator John Galusha said Monday that Fiesta Park belongs to Huerfano County, but the activities there are led by volunteers.

“The county allows volunteers to run the adult softball program,” he wrote in an e-mail.”There is no paperwork, no contract, nor agreement for the activity. And the county doesn’t charge for the use of the field.”

Lessar said he suggested this week to county officials that they might consider suspending all activity at the softball fields for now.

“We ought to get this locked up and not even let people practice,” he said.

Huerfano County sees seventh confirmed COVID-19 case

Staff report

 

HUERFANO COUNTY — The Las Animas Huerfano Counties District Health Department announced Tuesday that a resident of Huerfano County has tested positive for COVID-19. Huerfano County now has seven cases within the county.

The positive COVID-19 case is a female in her 20’s who is recovering at home.

The local health department public health nurse has begun a contact investigation to determine if there were any additional exposures.

As a reminder, Public Health encourages all residents to take the following COVID-19 prevention steps:

• Wear a face covering when in public indoor spaces, as required per Executive Order D 2020-138

• Practice social distancing

• Wash hands frequently with soap and water

• Stay home when sick

Topsy turvey high school sports schedules in COVID era

Only CHSAA activities with no changes are student leadership and music activities

 

by Mark Craddock

COLORADO — High school football, volleyball and basketball in February? Softball, tennis and golf in the fall? Baseball extending into late June?

In a world turned topsy-turvy by the COVID-19 pandemic, when even the status of school openings is still up in the air in many districts, it is little wonder the upheaval would find its way to prep sports fields and bleachers across the state.

The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA)  released its calendar of activities for the coming year, rife with changes to conform with state restrictions and guidelines.

In broad strokes, the calendar is built around four seasons spread across the academic year, with many of the activities shuffled from their traditional seasons.

In “season A,” the traditional fall sports season, only cross country, boys’ golf, boys’ tennis and softball teams will see competition.

Football, in many areas the highlight of high school fall sports — and the anchor of most schools’ homecoming activities — will not see its first practices until Feb. 22, 2021, with games slated to begin March 4. Girls’ volleyball, another traditional fall sport, will be delayed until March 1.

Both sports are relegated to the late-winter “season C.”

The football season will be limited to seven games, with championships tentatively scheduled for May 8. For the volleyball teams, the season will see a maximum of 16 games, with a tentative state tourney date of May 1.

Boys’ and girls’ basketball, a “season B” sport in the CHSAA calendar, will get underway Jan. 1, closer to its normal timetable. Schools from 1A to 3A can play a 13-game schedule, while 4A and 5A schools get three additional games. Their championships will tentatively be held March 6.

Wrestling will also be a “season B” sport, with first competitions coming Jan. 7. Teams may participate in seven dual meets and a cumulative seven days worth of tournament action. The state championship is tentatively scheduled for March 6.

Baseball season will begin April 29. c1A teams will be limited to 13 games, while 2A-5A teams may schedule 16. The championship is tentatively set for June 26.

There will be no changes to the CHSAA sanctioned student leadership and music activities. Both will follow typical schedules for practices and competitions.

Raton prepares to go back to school remotely at first

by Marty Mayfield

KRTN Multi-Media

RATON — Raton Public Schools will begin preparations with teachers doing in-service training beginning August 11, but how much of that will be in person versus online training will be confirmed in the upcoming week.

Students will return to school in August in an online format, with in person classes beginning September 8th for K-2nd grade. The Raton Intermediate School will return later, on September 21, with the High School coming back October 5. Of course, as RPS Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bonn points out, all that could change between now and then.

Bonn has spent the last few weeks working out details for technology upgrades, noting that upgrades to the high school WIFI are forth coming. The WIFI and other technology in the school is older than 13 years and is in bad need of upgrading. The high school is fed with fiber optics, which Bonn noted were greatly underutilized. Students and faculty can expect to see new computers with Longfellow students seeing new iPads.

As for sports, its anyone’s guess since there will be no contact sports in the fall. Depending on numbers, they may not happen this year. He noted that coaches and high school admin will be working together to work out schedules for multi-sport students.

Bonn noted that transportation and meals are a big part of what he is working on as well. Students riding buses will be temperature checked and must wear a mask. He noted that families with students in multiple schools will have first priority on scheduling as will families with students in the same school. He says the district is working with parents to make things as easy as they can. It was also noted that while masks are required, the district has ordered several face shields which many teachers have requested rather than masks so speaking in class would be easier to do. Face Shields will also be offered at Longfellow for the younger students.

NMAA is meeting again on Wednesday and may make more changes to the upcoming sports season.

Primero school board tackles COVID questions

by Ruth Stodghill

 

PRIMERO — The Primero School Board held its regular monthly meeting at 5 pm on July 21, focusing on topics including plans for the upcoming school year, fiscal changes due to cuts to the state budget, and a staff resignation.

“The state department of education came out with further guidance regarding the start of the school year,” said Naccarato.

“We also sent out a survey to parents and staff about how they would like to approach the new school year.” “We are looking at starting grades 6-12 on a hybrid model until Labor Day,” said Naccarato. “The state is suggesting that teachers keep a six foot radius from students, so we are trying to develop two cohorts of students in order to limit exposure among students and staff.”

“Mr. Naccarato, what are you doing for your high risk employees, students, or age groups?” asked board member Laura Saint.

“All staff and students will be given options,” said Naccarato. “We are going to have a staff meeting tomorrow and we will ask staff if they need to be accommodated or what their thoughts are.”

“Are you going to be asking staff to sign a waiver in case they get COVID-19? I would be more comfortable if staff were asked to sign a waiver,” said Saint.

“We can look at that. But staff would have to prove that they didn’t get it somewhere else, like the grocery store or gas station,” said Naccarato. “This is what the school district lawyer told me.”

“Next, with our buses, we will sanitize them in the morning, in the evening. We will take temperatures as students get on the bus, and parents will not be allowed to leave until their child has passed temperature checks. Last period, teachers will take temperatures of students before they load on the bus or leave with their parents,” said Naccarato.

“We will be using an electrostatic machine to sanitize all the buses,” said facilities director Gerald Duran. “We will wipe down high-touch areas, plus use the machine.”

“With regard to the school calendar, we have eliminated three inservice days for the staff from throughout the school year. Instead, we have added five days of training for teachers on COVID-19 response, in person and online, at the beginning of the year, with classes pushed back to start on August 17,” said Naccarato.

“We are going to spend the year adapting to whatever happens to us,” said Naccarato.

Saint asked the school administration, “What have you been doing to prepare the school district for the financial crisis that we know will be coming after January?”

“We have worked quite hard on the budget,” said Naccarato. “Even without COVID-19 relief funds, we are $98,547.36 to the good. We have cut back on multiple budget line items. I assure you, we have been working on this quite hard.”

“How will the cafeteria work this year?” asked Saint.

“We are looking at grab and go breakfasts,” said Naccarato. “Lunches will be hot like usual. We are looking at two lunches for the secondary instead of one: grades 9-12 and grades 6-8. Elementary might be in their classrooms.”

“Sports are completely in limbo right now,” said Naccarato. “CHSAA has not come out with any information for us. So we are moving forward to start on time, until we find out differently.”

“On that subject – we can’t have volunteers in the school building next year,” said Byall. “Parents can’t come in, that’s why we aren’t having parent/teacher conferences this year. The only people that can come in are our regular staff and approved substitutes.”

Other business

Byall shared grant updates with the board. “For the first time, we have a reading and writing support program which has been made available through the MTSS grant for our grades K-5 kids,” said Byall.

“We are renewing our subscription to the Book Nook program for the elementary,” said Byall, “which will be a great resource for our parents if we end up having to have some extended at-home learning time again this year.”

“Enrollment-wise, we have about twelve new students enrolled so far for this upcoming school year,” said Byall. “We are actively advertising as a district, and we are hoping to get up to an enrollment of 215, 220 students, which would really benefit us in terms of the district budget.”

In action items, the board tabled first readings of resolutions to approve Board Policy IKF-2 and IKF-2-E – Graduation Requirements, beginning with the class of 2021. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the state has pushed back the new graduation requirements to begin with the class of 2022.

In financial decisions, the board passed resolutions to approve use of beginning cash balance for several accounts in fiscal year 2020-2021, and to increase operating expenditure over revenue for fiscal year 2020-2021 in accordance with Amendment I Article 10 section 20-E for the General, Town House, Hot Lunch, Activity, Bond Redemption, and Construction funds.

The board passed a resolution to approve a revised school calendar for the year of 2020-2021.

Finally, the board passed a resolution to accept the resignation of Jamie Odum, Third Grade Teacher. Odum has accepted a vice principal position at Peakview Elementary in Walsenburg, CO.

The next board meeting was set for August 18 at 5 pm.

Gov. Lujan Grisham orders delay in full school opening

by Sharon Niederman

 

NEW MEXICO/RATON — Owing to the increase in cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered some delays in the school calendar.

While Raton schools were expected to open on August 17, 2020 offering options of hybrid model that included both in-person and at home learning as well as a choice of completely remote learning, the governor has pushed all in-person public education at least to after Labor Day, starting Sept. 8.

At least 40 percent of districts have already paused the start of the school year, including Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Los Alamos. According to the governor’s plan, spelled out in her July 23, 2020 news conference streamed on Facebook, children aged kindergarten through fifth grade will be brought back first, because younger children are most challenged by remote learning and to prevent their falling irreparably behind, then middle school, then high school.

“The ultimate goal,” said Lujan Grisham, “is to have no hybrid models operating, rather, all students would attend full-time classes five days a week.”

Lujan Grisham also indicated that special needs students could begin instruction in small group or one-to-one settings and K-3 students could begin learning in person if no more than five students per teacher were available.

However, according to leadership at Longfellow Elementary School in Raton, staff is probably not going to be ready for that re-structuring by August 17, rather, they are looking to the post-Labor Day date to begin classes.

Trinidad High School sports teams quarantined following positive COVID-19 test

by Bill Knowles

 

TRINIDAD — A 14-year old student and athlete at Trinidad High School has tested positive for COVID-19 after the student went to Mount San Rafael Hospital on Saturday July 25, showing symptoms. The girl was one of four individuals living in Las Animas County who tested positive during the week.

At least 24 individuals and their parents were all contacted on July 26 and sent quarantine letters. Some faculty members were also contacted and sent quarantine letters as well. All were asked to quarantine at home and monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.

The event has caused the school to cancel the athletic camps that utilize the gym. The gym was already scheduled to undergo renovations.

So far, the school district has not issued a release with further details on the quarantines or precautions being taken at this time.

The World Journal contacted TSD#1 School Board President Dan Ruscitti who said that other teams impacted by the closure of the gymnasium are the basketball team, the football team, and a group of students trying to revitalize cheerleading at the high school. “The Colorado Department of Education is right now debating on how to handle sports this year.”

“This comes just four-weeks before school is scheduled to start,” said Ruscitti. “We have a COVID team made up of 25 people that have been working on a plan for re-opening. Now we might have to come up with another plan.”

Huerfano RE-1 votes to start school online

Physical attendance may, possibly, start after Labor Day

 

by Jaye Sudar

WALSENBURG — The Board of Education’s hot topic at the Monday board meeting was whether to fully open school as decided at the July 13 board meeting, or to change the plan. Superintendent Mike Moore began by informing the board that due to more information on COVID-19, as well as letters from the Colorado Education Association (CEA) and the Huerfano Education Association (HEA) requesting a delay in opening schools, he was now asking the BOE to reconsider their decision. The new option would be to start school online on August 17, and then, after Labor Day, reconvene to discuss whether the district will move to in person instruction, or stay online. This is a plan that many districts in the state have chosen.

Ross Hallihan, president of the HEA, spoke of the “Extenuating circumstances that put the health and safety of many of our staff, their loved ones, our students and their family members, in jeopardy.” He continued with more information about the HEA survey taken, including that most of the HEA members were not comfortable with the BOE’s previous decision. These sentiments were echoed by some of the board members. President Gretchen Sporleder-Orr expressed concerns over the lack of testing and the risks of exposure due to the number of people traveling through the community at this time of year. Directors Ruth Orr and Edie Flanagin agreed that the lack of testing has left the community uninformed on the possible number of cases in the community. In contrast, Director Kayla Andreatta expressed concerns over possible abuse and neglect of students left at home, and Director Joel Shults mentioned his concerns that COVID-19 was not as virulent for students, and his opinion that more teachers were ready to go back full time. Director Sherry Gomez mentioned that the hospital and nursing home has been conducting weekly tests, and so far that it was fortunate that there had been no cases of COVID-19 at the hospital.

In a 4-3 vote, the board voted to change their stance and opt for online education starting on August 17. Shults, Gomez, and Andreatta voted against the motion. The BOE will reevaluate this decision prior to the Labor Day holiday, taking into consideration the status of COVID-19 in the community, as well as any new medical information available.

IT Update

The IT Department is working to install equipment to facilitate online education and the program Schoology Learning Management System. As the district is upgrading to Chrome books for the upper grades, the department asked the BOE to declare surplus 300 4th generation iPads, 45 Lenovo laptops, 30 network switches and 15 3rd generation iPads. The BOE approved declaring those items as surplus. Moore and the board thanked the IT Department for all of their hard work over the summer.

Flanagin asked the IT department about the requirements necessary for hotspots around town for students to access for online learning. She was informed that the district cannot pay for anything ‘outside of the buildings’ due to E-Rate restrictions. However, the district could work with other parties, either governmental or private, to provide the hotspots and service. Filtering must be provided on the district devices to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000 (CIPA).

Resolution and District Policy

The BOE approved policies GBEB-R Staff Conduct and Professional Boundaries with Students, and EGAEA-R2 Reguation of Social Media Use on second reading. It was requested that these policies be added to the teachers handbook as well.

Policy JLCDA Students with Food Allergies was given a first reading. Moore stated that the forms will likely be added in as a -R policy to help clarify these forms. Policies marked as -R policies regulate more succinctly the details of a basic policy. This policy will help staff work equitably with students with food allergies.

Policy IC/ICA School Year/School Calendar/Instruction Time explains how the school year is structured, and allows for alternative styles of instruction. This policy in conjunction with Resolution to Define “Actively Engaged in the Educational Process”, a COVID-19 driven decision, were needed because of the the challenges of educating students when there is a mixture of online and in person education occurring.

The BOE approved the policies and the resolution.

Hirings

The BOE approved the hiring of Peakview Paraprofessionals Dana Montoya, Jennifer Torres, Margaret Bobian, Jessica Britt, Carlene Pacheco, Holland Weisbrook, Griselda Downing, Kelly Roel, Tim Encinias and Karen Meares. Joe Hipbshman and Garett Quintana were approved as Paraprofessionals for John Mall.

The BOE then approved the hiring of cooks for the district. Peakview: Barbara Sandoval, Cleo Sandoval and Pat Eccher. John Mall: Lena Aguirre head cook, and part time cook, Angie Archuletta. Gardner Valley School: Yvette Vialpando.

Bond update

Moore informed the BOE that the paperwork to add a bond issue onto the ballot for November had been done. In discussion with WOLD, the architectural firm which helped with the BEST Grant presentation, a bond action timeline will be forthcoming. Moore asked for help from the community to be part of the Bond Election committee. As Superintendent, he is only able to give facts or data as requested, while the committee can run the actual campaign. If anyone in the community is interested in helping, contact the District Office.

In other business

Moore introduced Peakview’s new assistant principal, Jamie Odum, who spoke briefly to the board, thanking them for the opportunity to work with the district. He also informed the BOE that the John Mall gym floor is once more showing signs of warping. The insurance company has been informed and the district will work to remedy the issue. The BOE is planning a workshop with the district lawyer and possibly with Roger Good for board training. Moore, in response to a question regarding the Gardner Valley bus, explained that it would run should the charter school decide to open for full time and in person instruction.

The recording of the meeting was deleted as it was Zoom-bombed with inappropriate content.

Las Animas County sees four new COVID-19 cases in two days

staff report

 

LAS ANIMAS COUNTY —The Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Department confirmed Sunday four new cases of COVID-19 in Las Animas County over a two-day period, from test results received July 25-26.

That brings the total number of Las Animas County cases to 17, with seven cases still active, according to a press release by Director Kim Gonzales.

She said all are in isolation and close contacts have been notified to quarantine, except one individual who is hospitalized.

The recent positive results include:

  • 86 year-old male — Not related to previous cases, symptomatic and hospitalized;
  • 33 year-old male — Close contact to a previous positive;
  • 14 year-old female — Close contact to a previous positive;
  • 43 year-old female — Close contact to a previous positive.

Public Health is encouraging community members to have meaningful conversations with friends and family about taking care of one another through COVID, and addressing individual responsibility and decisions that will translate to keeping the community healthy. Gonzales said using trusted and factual information can provide a baseline for these important discussions that will give people strength and unity in following best practices while providing mental support through this experience.

“Kindly discussing how someone’s actions can affect you and your community’s health, can strengthen a sense of responsibility and accountability during these unprecedented times,” she said. “Having these sincere and personal conversations is difficult, but can bring our community closer together and support one another through this.”

Gonzales’ release reemphasized five steps citizens should continue to follow to help contain the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask;
  • Maintain six feet of physical distance;
  • Minimize group size;
  • Wash hands frequently;
  • Stay home when sick — and get tested.

Cimarron schools prepares plan for upcoming school year

by Sherry Goodyear

 

CIMARRON — Like all schools in New Mexico, the Cimarron Public School system has been scrambling to devise a plan that will allow students to come back to school in the fall and fulfill the overwhelming criteria laid out by the N.M. Public Education Department (PED). In a Zoom-televised school board meeting on Wednesday, July 15, Adan Estrada, the Superintendent of Cimarron Schools, discussed the plan for the upcoming year, a plan school board member Brett Weir pointed out still has to be approved by the governor’s office.

The biggest challenges for Cimarron Schools are the five requirements mandated by PED including,

1) Surveillance and rapid response testing,

2) Social distancing,

3) Avoidance of large groups,

4) Face coverings, and

5) Meals provided for all students including those being taught on-line – a tall order for public schools especially when one considers these rules are in direct contrast to what one thinks of when reflecting on the typical public school setting.

While creating the plan, Cimarron Schools have encouraged parents and citizens to weigh in, with Estrada making it clear that there is little leeway in PED’s mandates, but that he is certain the school will be able to provide a safe, clean environment for the area’s children. He also encouraged people to reach out to the governor’s office to express any issues they may have over the requirements.

As one would expect, parents are full of concerns from mandated random testing of students and employees and how that will work, to the mask requirement even for those playing sports,– a stipulation that has caused the school to halt summer training for sports until August 10 when school is set to resume.

Parents worry that it won’t be easy to keep five-year-olds from socially interacting with each other, or from whipping off a mask if they get a sudden urge to breathe unobstructed air. For all parties involved, the issue seems to be creating a balance between satisfying mandates and meeting the needs of teachers, students and parents.

The current plan allows for student instruction time to occur Tuesday through Friday, 9 to 3 to allow for the mandatory temperature-taking that will happen for all employees and students on the premises before school begins each day and to provide proper social-distancing in school buses. Teachers will have a prep hour from 8 to 9 each morning. Some parents are concerned about the shortened days and work-schedules of parents, but Estrada provided assurances that students needing to be dropped off early and picked up late would be accommodated even if he had to be there to monitor them himself. The school year will also be extended 10 to 25 days to help offset the educational losses from the past year when fear of COVID-19 caused schools to close in mid-March, and the plan is to allow students needing tutoring help to get it from 3 to 4 p.m. each day after school so that students are not having to wait until the bitter end to get the help they need.

Meeting the PED requirements means a lot of time, money, and effort will be going into extra thorough cleaning, temperature screenings, and maintaining social distance on buses and the like. On the upside, the school district is still going to honor the 4% raise teachers were supposed to get but that the governor’s office was not going to honor due to financial constraints caused by COVID-19.

In the end, the eleven-page proposed plan passed through school board four in favor to one against, and can be accessed on Cimarron Schools’ website here: docs.google.com/document/d/1nCbJykeaho9BqcPdwl9coRbdQykmp7kHQdL1GFs7TQ4/edit. This “living document” will be updated as changes need to be made to reflect what is happening within the state. The board meeting ended with Estrada encouraging parents that the school would work with everyone, “To find a plan that works for each child.”

 

Cimarron Public Schools Superintendent Adan Estrada conducting the meeting via Zoom. Photo courtesy Sherry Goodyear.
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