DPS middle school parents say they were kept in the dark about recent COVID case at the school

Merrill M.S. parents, teachers raise concerns
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Posted at 4:55 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 23:14:46-05

DENVER -- As Denver Public Schools continue to bring back more and more kids for in-person learning this week, we’ve learned there are more than 1,200 students in quarantine.

Parents have expressed frustrations - not with quarantines, but with the lack of communication about who’s in quarantine.

At Merrill Middle School, for example, teachers and staff received an e-mail Sunday stating that a student or staff member had been diagnosed with COVID-19, but parents of Merrill Middle School children did not receive notification.

“I don’t, fundamentally, believe that the district is trying to get my children sick,” said parent Kim Champion. “But it’s important for them to communicate with us if there have been issues at a particular school; just to let us know.”

Champion says she’s been very supportive of the school’s recent plan to return to in-person learning.

“I just think it’s better for them to be able to be around their peers at this age,” Champion said. “Frankly, kids are lonely.”

She and other parents and teachers are, however, disappointed in the lack of communication about the most recent quarantine.

“The whole community wasn’t necessarily told over the weekend,” said a teacher who asked not to be identified for this story. “Teachers found out last night, but then – when do parents find out? Sixth graders showed up today.”

The school sent an e-mail, but only to teachers and staff, which stated in part, “…a student or staff member has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The person diagnosed is being kept home.” It goes on to say those in close contact were instructed to quarantine for ten days.

Parents wonder why they didn't receive the same correspondence.

DPS responded to Denver7 stating that it does share all positive case information on its public dashboard.

“The current case of COVID-19 at Merrill Middle School occurred prior to students returning to the building, and only teachers or individuals who had been in the building were notified,” a district letter sent to Denver7 stated. “In partnership with CDPHE, we generally notify only individuals who need to quarantine based on close contact.”

But teachers say there were about 50 students in the building last week. And again, they say, why not just notify everyone?

“I do think the general parent population should know when there’s an identified case,” said a teacher. “Even if it’s not directly affecting their student, just so they can make their own decisions.”

At Merrill, 6th graders returned this week, 7th and 8th graders return in the coming two weeks.

Staff say those with high needs and behavioral needs had already returned to the school prior to news of the COVID-19 case.