NEW CASTLE – Something key was missing from the New Castle High School football game Friday night.
The high school marching band, the Candy Canes and flag line all were absent from the field for pre-game and halftime shows, and they weren’t in the stands spreading school spirit.
Superintendent Debbie DeBlasio and band director Nick Yoho said band students were quarantined for 14 days because they had been exposed to COVID-19 during a band boosters-sponsored Kennywood trip on Aug. 19.
According to Yoho, a handful of students exhibited symptoms, and some tested positive for the virus, after the trip.
“The Department of Health decided to quarantine them for 14 days from when the symptoms first appeared on the person who exposed them,” DeBlasio said, explaining that one of the members exhibited symptoms that day on the bus. She said that the students were masked on the bus.
Yoho confirmed that the students were masked while riding the bus, because of federal regulations that call for masks on mass transportation.
But once the students got to the amusement park southeast of Pittsburgh, they associated with one another outdoors throughout the day.
“They are in school today, and hopefully we’ll have a band on Friday,” DeBlasio said Monday.
New Castle’s football team will play at home Friday against Quaker Valley.
Yoho said some of the students are still out on quarantine this week.
Monday was the first day of school for all New Castle district students.
The students had performed a show on the football field last Tuesday during an in-service for teachers, but 21 students the state Department of Health identified through contact tracing who were quarantined were not in attendance, Yoho said.
He said the district and the band have been closely following all department of health guidelines.
Yoho said all of the contact tracing among the students was reported to school nurses.
“I feel bad for the students,” he said, “and that it was a home game.”
Although the band cut its camp from nine days to five full-time days with two half-days because of the quarantine, the band had still managed to put together its first halftime show, which it wasn’t able to perform, he said.
“I’m hoping we can go forward now with no more problems,” he said.
The band at future home games will be seated in the band shell and will be distanced by the 3 feet recommended by Department of Health guidelines.
DeBlasio said the district has not had any reports of students who were reported to have been very ill with the virus at this point. She added that some students are now getting vaccinated.
“We’re continuing with all of our hygiene, sanitizing and wiping down,” DeBlasio said. “We’re trying to social distance them but it’s hard, they’re children. They’re excited to be in school.”
Prior to Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision Tuesday to mandate masks in schools, wearing them was optional but recommended in New Castle schools. The statewide school mandate goes into effect Sept. 7.
DeBlasio had written a letter to the district students and staff on Aug. 27, with more information.
“If we know that a student was in close contact with a COVID-positive individual at school, we will notify the parent/guardian of that exposure,” DeBlasio wrote.
If a student is fully vaccinated but is in close contact with someone who tested positive, he or she will continue to attend school but will need to be monitored closely. It is strongly recommended that the student wear a mask for 14 days or until he or she receives a negative test result, the letter states.
A close contact is considered anyone within three feet of a positive person for more than 15 minutes, regardless of whether either person, or both, is masked. Anyone within 3 to 6 feet of a positive person for more than 15 minutes is considered a close contact.
Quarantine is for 10 days after exposure to a positive person. The 10 days can be shortened to 7 days if the person tests negative after the fifth day of quarantine.
If students show two or more symptoms of COVID, they must either stay home for 10 days, have a negative test or be cleared by a doctor to return before the 10 days.