A string of positive COVID-19 tests connected to Riverglen Junior High has put at least 70 of the Boise school’s students in quarantine, according to school officials.
As of Wednesday morning, the school in Northwest Boise had four students who tested positive or were considered “presumed positive” since Tuesday, said Dan Hollar, the public affairs administrator for the Boise School District, in an email to the Idaho Statesman.
On the school district’s website, there are now five students listed as “probable” infections. Students are presumed positive when they are symptomatic and believed to have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, Hollar said.
On Tuesday morning, school principal Deborah Watts told staff that 15% of the student body — and 25% of the seventh graders — were at home under quarantine, according to an email obtained by the Statesman. Riverglen includes grades seven through nine. There are 139 students in seventh grade and 435 enrolled at the entire school, Hollar said.
Most junior high students became eligible to receive vaccines in Idaho on Wednesday with the expansion of Pfizer’s approval to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
“We’re not considering what’s happening at Riverglen an outbreak,” said Alina Gilmore, a spokesperson for Central District Health, an agency with jurisdiction over Ada, Boise, Valley and Elmore counties. She noted that not all of the positive cases at Riverglen are related.
Hollar added that pandemic guidelines are still being followed throughout the district.
“While the number of 70 is certainly significant, it’s not as high as it had been at the height of the pandemic,” he said.
In mid-November, when the district was following a hybrid in-person and virtual plan for its students, 189 students tested positive for COVID-19 at Boise schools, according to the district’s data.
“We’re certainly taking this seriously and making sure that we continue to follow our pandemic operations plans,” Hollar said.
According to the district’s health protocols, any student who has been in close contact with another student who tests positive is required to quarantine. Close contact is defined as having been “within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes,” according to school documents. The district collaborates with Central District Health on contact tracing. If classrooms are not large enough to maintain 6 feet of distance, Hollar said that schools group students in pods to minimize risk.
After a year of remote and hybrid learning, the district returned to full-time in-person learning in March, although students have been allowed to keep attending school from home. Kindergarten through sixth grade students returned to school five days a week March 9, and older students returned March 29.
Earlier this year, a review of the district’s buildings found that only 31% of classrooms would allow for 6 feet of space between students, according to Idaho Education News. The 6-foot recommendation is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public health guidelines.
The last day of school in the district is May 27.