Ohio school leaders overwhelmed by contact tracing tasks

Kacy Carter spent the entire school day tracking students and contacting parents.  

The principal at Stark County's Jackson Memorial Middle School near Massillon, Ohio, wasn’t calling them about grades or bad behavior. His call actually had nothing to do with education.

He was notifying parents that their child had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and that they needed to quarantine.

Schools across Ohio, Kentucky and the nation have been performing contact tracing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 for well over a year now, calling families and tracking case numbers on a daily, hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute basis. 

First graders Ella Siciliano, left, and Crosley Roewer share their work during an assignment in Julie Fischer's first-grade class at J.F. Burns Elementary, August 31, 2021. Kings Local Schools has mandated masks for pre-K through sixth grade. As students walk into the classroom, they use hand sanitizer to clean their hands.

Keeping up with contact tracing feels like a full-time job in itself, said Jennifer Stewart, Newport (Kentucky) Independent Schools' director of pupil personnel and student services.

But in many cases, principals and superintendents (sometimes assisted by school nurses) who are already busy with other required daily tasks – evaluating and training staff, coordinating school security and balancing budgets – are the ones putting in extra hours to fulfill their schools' contact tracing needs.

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