Mental health of students at stake from unjust quarantines

| October 28, 2020 7:00 AM

Editor’s note: the following letter was sent to the Columbia Falls School Board earlier this month.

Dear School Board Members and Superintendent Mr. Wick,

This letter is to address the quarantine process taking place at Columbia Falls High School.  I am not attesting to what is taking place at other schools in our district, as this is the only school I’ve been communicating with and am knowledgeable about.  I have two daughters at CFHS and I’m speaking/writing on behalf of myself and others I’ve been in discussion with about our quarantine process and its effect on our students’ mental health.  Here goes...

No quarantined students at CFHS have tested positive for Covid.  I believe the quarantine guidelines are unjust given the precautions CFHS is taking.  (Temperature checks, screening, mask wearing, desk sanitizing between classes, no direct student contact in classes, etc.)  After hours of talking with school officials and the health department, it is my understanding the only way for changes to be made regarding our protocols, is to attend a school board meeting.  Now since the school board meeting has been closed to the public physically, I was also advised to submit this letter.  Not only to save time, but to make sure my concerns are heard in the event the Zoom aspect of the meeting does not function properly.

I am involved with all aspects of my childrens’ schooling and school activities, and after speaking with over 100 high school parents about what this quarantining process is doing to our children and finding out no one has publicly addressed their concerns, I knew it was time to give it a voice.  Change may still not take place, as I know how a democracy works, but there will be absolutely no chance at change without speaking out.

I believe there needs to be data compiled; if that data keeps reflecting that 0% of our quarantined students are testing positive or contracting Covid, then a change should be made.

I ask you... Do you have someone or a team of someones taking note of such a thing?  If so, what are those discussions entailing?  Will quarantining stop to those students following all the above mentioned items if we have proof that 200 quarantined students don’t get Covid from merely sitting next to someone who tests positive when they’ve screened, sanitizing their hands and desks, wearing their masks, and having no direct contact with students, while in the classroom?  Will 300 do it? 400? 

In my opinion, the mental health of our kids is at stake!  They go to class and fear a student sitting by them will be absent, they then become anxious when someone is absent and become all consumed processing what will be taken from them if that absent student gets tested and tests positive, they worry constantly.  In my house, it actually came to affirmation.  Now all that worry, turned into reality and the heartache and anxiety manifested 10-fold.

I’ve been talking with our principal since my daughter lost her first volleyball teammate the first week of school.  My daughter would have become a remote student that week had her classes been offered. Unfortunately, only three of her eight classes are offered through the remote system.  One class she needs (an AP class) is to hopefully qualify her for a college tuition waiver, something she has been working for since she entered high school.  Education has always come first in our home and given no other option for maintaining her classes and remaining a CFHS student eligible to play volleyball, we were forced to choose for her to stay in physical school, praying daily the dreaded phone call wouldn’t come.  Now after over a quarter of the school year gone, with several students quarantined (zero testing positive), I’m not hearing anyone even speak of changing the quarantine guidelines and that is very concerning and disheartening.

I have been beyond proud of all the measures CFHS has taken to protect our children.  I’ve actually bragged about it to friends with students attending other area schools where screening and temperature checks are not happening, where students are allowed to take their masks off, and where desks are not sanitized between classes.  That is why I’m sending this letter.  I’m sending this letter because those means are being taken at CFHS, because our quarantined students are not contracting Covid at school, because this is proof that what is being done is working, because this is proof we should not be putting our students’ mental health at jeopardy if the data does not support it, because as I’ve been told by the Health Department, “we are guideline makers, not law makers, not enforcers.” 

Everyone is so quick to point the finger at someone else and say, “they said, therefore we do.” but after several phone calls I’m telling you that is not the case.  Different schools are doing different things, because they have the right to make decisions for their school.  Guidelines are not laws.  The Health Department is not our Governor, who can mandate.  So please tell me we have a group, committee, or organization that is taking this information into account ... and if you can’t, I request we at CFHS create one today.

Sincerely, 

Tangie Rensel, Hans Rensel, Denise Falkner, Tim Falkner, Heather Oberholtzer, Alex Oberholtzer, Rose Dawson, Jerid Dawson, Tricia Salmon, David Salmon, Carisa Hoerner, Suzy Schweikert, Heather Peters, Wade Peters, Vanessa Hoerner, Bridger Hoerner