Springfield Public Schools paying more than $152,000 for contact tracers

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 9:35 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - As testing reveals more cases of coronavirus, it also means more work for contact tracers. The city of Springfield will hire more tracers, through its contract with Maximus Federal Services. Those tracers will be focused only on cases in Springfield Public Schools.

Springfield City Council approved the amendment to the contract with Maximus to bring on five contact tracers focused on SPS. The school district will pay the city $152,502 to expand the service.

Last week alone, Springfield Public Schools reported 57 new cases of COVID-19 in students and staff. On Sunday, the district announced nine potential exposures in school buildings and it needs help getting in touch with anyone who might’ve been close to a positive COVID-19 case.

“Our job is to educate students but obviously, we want to do it in a very safe and healthy manner,” said Jean Grabeel, the Director of Health Services for Springfield Public Schools.

Grabeel said, so far, SPS has been doing its own contact tracing. That means district employees are calling families of any student or staff member who is exposed to COVID-19 in school buildings.

“Who was with them within that six-foot radius? Were they masked, were they not masked? Did they have direct contact with them? Were they eating? Were they in close contact during a sporting activity?” Grabeel said.

She said as students are learning more in classrooms, quarantines are more common. Grabeel said the precautions and procedures teachers have put in place have made that process easier.

“They’re the ones in the classrooms. They’ve created seating charts. They’re having them work in pods together. They know where the kids are at all times and that helps us,” she said.

Grabeel said the district has brought on additional staff and asked school nurses to help with that contact tracing, but extra support is still necessary.

Kathryn Wall, with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said disease spread is not happening much inside schools, as measures like masks and deep cleaning are taken.

“We do know that as we see more cases in the community, there’s that likelihood of additional quarantine,” Wall said.

Wall said it’s still vital to communicate with families of students who do qualify for modified quarantine.

“That’s if a child was exposed in the classroom, they only get to go back to the classroom. So otherwise, they’re still in quarantine. They’re still going to be affected by contact tracing, they still can’t go to extracurriculars. They’re still going to be expected, outside of the classroom, to be at home,” she said.

Grabeel said, while the process of contact tracing might sometimes be a challenge, the goal is simple.

“It’s all about how can we prevent or slow the spread,” she said.

Wall said, as a reminder, no one has to wait for contact tracers to call them to take measures. She said, if you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested and warn any of your close contacts. If you’ve been exposed to someone who is positive, quarantine.

KY3 News asked Springfield Public Schools where the $152,502 was coming from in the district’s budget for the contact tracers. The communications team was working to find an answer as of Monday afternoon, but did not get back to us.

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