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SUSD has a rigorous cleaning and sanitizing routine at each of their schools. 

Sahuarita Unified School District has recorded six isolated COVID-19 cases since August.

The cases were “scattered,” according to district leadership and spread out among four schools: Sopori School, Sahuarita Primary School, Sahuarita High School and Walden Grove High School. 

With the two elementary schools, the district confirmed the individuals were placed in isolation before in-person learning began.

Assistant Superintendent Scott Downs said the cases were a mix of students and staff, but they could not provide the exact breakdown “since the number is very low, it could lend itself to identifiable individuals.”

District Nurse Jeanine Sarnacki said these are community-based cases and the district has been lucky so far. 

“In each case, they were able to tell us where they got it (COVID-19) from,” she said. “We have not had any incidences of transmission within our schools. We’ve only had those isolated cases and in those isolated cases we've been very lucky and not had them with students on their campus at the same time.”

Downs said based on how spread out the cases were, there were no indicators of an event on campus that would have caused them. 

“We haven't seen any pattern that would give rise to concern that what we’re doing is wrong because it’s so spread out,” he said. “There have been no calendar events or indicators to say this probably happened because we came back from school.”

The district has a mitigation plan for when cases arise. 

Sarnacki said there are three types of cases: People who report being exposed, suspected cases and confirmed cases. 

If someone reports exposure or they have a suspected case, the person has to stay home if determined necessary, follow a quarantine and can't come to work or school. 

Sarnacki said confirmed cases are the ones that require the most follow up. 

“Those are laboratory confirmed and as soon as we get the information we do research, try to find out when it happened and the facts pertaining to it, and we call the county health department,” she said. “From there, we’re immediately quarantining anyone we've identified as a close contact and keeping them home and the sick person in isolation.”

The district has a contact tracing team that Downs and Sarnacki are a part of. 

With a confirmed case, the team would go into the school where an exposure occurred to track any possible locations where the student or individual would have been. From there, they begin to determine who else might have come into contact with that person. They would then compile a list of those who need to quarantine and notify individuals as well as send out a school-wide notification. 

“There would be a letter to the individual and a letter to the school or department saying there's been a case and you are not in exposure unless you've been contacted individually,” Downs said. “We’ve been practicing and getting letters ready for about six weeks now and haven't had to do an active case yet.” 

Downs said reporting cases to the SUSD community is important. 

“We’re going to be as transparent as possible,” he said. “Emotions run high with this and it’s new for everyone so the more information we can give parents, making sure we’re ensuring people's anonymity, the better.”

Along with notifying SUSD families via letters, the district reports cases to the Pima County Health Department. 

“We haven't had to do it yet, but we do have plans for school-wide notification if we have any cases develop from here on out with students on campus,” Sarnacki said. “Now that we have students on almost all our campuses that is coming.’

The district is working to finalize a partnership with United Community Health Center for testing. UCHC has already done several mass testings of employees at the district. 

Currently, the district provides people with information to find county testing locations. 

The district feels confident in the number of sanitization procedures they’ve implemented, from mitigation plans to special isolation cubicles in the nurse’s office to separate sick children. 

“Safety and health are our first priority,” Sarnacki said. “We are making sure healthy kids are in the classroom and sick kids are home or at the health office as soon as possible.” 

Jamie Verwys | 520-547-9728 

Reporter

Reporter Jamie Verwys grew up in Sahuarita and graduated from the high school in 2006. She lives in Tucson and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2018.