COLORADO SPRINGS — Some parents are raising concerns over the COVID-19 outbreaks in Colorado schools.
Data from the state health department shows more than a dozen reported across the state as the school year gets underway.
"My son got into the car and said hey did you know that the school is closed, and I said you're kidding, that is hilarious. He said no seriously they are closed for a week," said Cathy Smith, Vista Ridge High School parent.
Smith didn't expect to hear that news only weeks into the school year.
"I was kinda shocked the news was coming from my son, and not the school. I was pretty disappointed about that. They want the parents involved but they are not giving parents information in order to be involved so ultimately it is the parent's
responsibility so we should be notified before our kids," said Smith.
Vista Ridge High School is one of the latest schools to suspend in-person learning and activities due to a cluster of COVID-19 cases. The increase in outbreaks drawing concerns from many parents.
"They did the best job they could last year and had things in place, and they chose to remove all of that as an option this year. I can understand on one level as far as the added pressure on teachers, the added cost, and the importance of kids being in the classroom, but I also knew the pandemic was not over," said Smith. "It is frustrating at this point, knowing that experts from all across the country say that masks work and there are very straightforward mitigation measures. Any school district, school, or leadership that is choosing not to put preventative measures into place is being negligent."
The Falcon School District 49 spokesperson released the following statement.
When our partners at El Paso County Public Health classify a cluster of illnesses as an outbreak, our schools are responding with targeted mitigation which may include further cleaning, short-term masking, enhanced distancing, or some E-learning. Individuals considered close contacts will receive notifications from our schools and instructions about quarantine from EPCPH.
When schools experiencing temporary shifts to E-learning resume normal operations, they will maintain current protocols for cleaning and encouraging good hygiene through frequent hand-washing or use of hand sanitizers, along with maintaining an appropriate physical distance.
For those who choose to wear masks at any of our schools, we support that decision, but we are not moving toward a mask mandate. We also encourage anyone experiencing symptoms to stay home and contact their family doctor right away.
While an increase in respiratory illnesses is typical during this time of year, health professionals are concerned.
"COVID-19 especially is very concerning. It is very concerning because of the rising incidence and the dominance of the Delta Variant. The Delta Variant is the driving force of outbreaks at this time, specifically in schools," said Dr. Richard Vu, Colorado Springs physician.
Besides the Delta Variant, Vu says the increase in physical interaction is contributing to the COVID-19 outbreaks.
"As we are out and about and kids are in school more, there is more physical interaction among children. That is how the virus spreads, it spreads in respiratory droplets in close proximity with each other and spreads through contact. If you have the virus on your hand and touch a surface then another person touches a surface and then touches the nose or mouth. That is how the virus spreads," said Vu.
To prevent further risk to in-person learning, Vu recommends families follow social distancing recommendations, wash hands regularly, and wear face coverings.