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Larned USD 495 back at school
With county risk level ‘orange,’ masks are required
Larned High School sigh
The Larned Indians Sign outside Larned High School. - photo by Tribune Staff

LARNED — Larned USD 495 is back in session, and students returned to classes in person Thursday morning. Parents were informed via email that all students and staff members would be required to wear masks. How long they will remain at school, and what protocols will be in place, will be determined in large part by what level of risk the county is under. 

Thursday morning, according to the Pawnee County Health Department, the county was listed in the orange category, “Substantial controlled risk,” reached when the 2-week cumulative county rate of new confirmed cases is between 21-29. 

As of Wednesday, there were 16 active cases in the county, not including residents at the Larned State Correctional Facility, over 40 of whom have tested positive in recent weeks, and have since been transported to the Lansing facility where they will be quarantined. 

Pawnee County Health Department Director Cheryl Hoberecht told the Great Bend Tribune Thursday morning she anticipates there will come a time when the county enters the red category the “Covid Risk Assessment Matrix for Pawnee County,” but just as likely there will be times when it is in the yellow and green categories.

Monday morning, Aug. 16, the Pawnee County Commission approved a public health order that adopted a Risk Assessment Matrix. The commission approved 4 levels of risk — Green, Yellow, Orange and Red. 

Green indicates “no to minimal risk.” Yellow is “minimal to moderate risk;” orange, “substantial controlled risk;” red, “uncontrolled risk.” Risk criteria include student absenteeism, a 2-week cumulative county incident rate, and local/referring hospital capacity. 

Ft. Larned USD 495 plans to refer to the matrix throughout the school year to determine on a weekly basis how in-person instruction will proceed and what level of precautions will be taken that week to slow the spread of the virus. Factors like mask wearing, the degree to which each school building is used, and if classes will be conducted in the traditional, hybrid or remote/distance model will be determined in part by the county risk assessment as well as district specific cases. 

Earlier in the week, the district was informed two teachers, one elementary and one middle school, were confirmed to have COVID-19. These cases were identified prior to students’ returning to school and all contact tracing has been completed, Hoberecht said. Close contacts, those who were with the persons testing positive for more than 10 minutes and at a distance closer than 6 feet, have been quarantined for 14 days from the time of their last contact. 

For updates on the current risk level in the county, check the Pawnee County Health Department Facebook page. USD 495 will communicate with parents via email. 

Covid risk matrix Pawnee County
Earlier this week, the Pawnee County Commission approved this risk assessment tool for the county. School districts in the county will refer to it when determining on a district-by-district basis how school will happen week to week this year. - photo by Courtesy