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TUSD stops phone calls to parents about COVID exposure

Throughout this school year parents and guardians of Turlock Unified School District students have received calls or emails letting them know when their child has been exposed to COVID-19 at school and recommended next steps for testing and quarantine. At times, the messages would arrive days late, due to contact tracing backlogs.

The District announced they will be discontinuing daily phone calls regarding exposures at school sites “in an effort to streamline communication,” according to the District. Instead, this information will be posted by 6 p.m. Monday through Friday on the School Exposures page of the TUSD website. COVID-19 testing information is located on this page as well.

“Based on feedback from site administrators and parents, we are moving away from often nightly phone calls regarding exposures,” said TUSD communications coordinator Marie Russell. “Now that parents are familiar with our TUSD COVID-19 notification process, we feel that encouraging them to check the School Exposures page at their discretion will be a better communication strategy to ensure that other important messages are not missed.”

Last week, TUSD had 372 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with nearly 300 of them coming from students, according to the district’s COVID dashboard. The first week back from winter break TUSD reported 535 confirmed cases as cases have risen nationwide due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.

At the start of the year, the California Department of Public Health issued a new process for schools to follow for contact tracing. The new process is called the group-tracing approach, meaning they inform families of a positive case in a classroom rather than contact tracing to determine individual exposures.

The state guideline directs school districts to notify parents when their child has been exposed, but it doesn’t state specifically how that notification should occur. According to the District, posting the required notification online is considered properly notifying families of COVID-19 exposure.