Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Unified School District 207 representatives worked with other experts on post in a tabletop exercise Aug. 18 at the district office to make a plan in the event of a positive COVID-19 case within the district.
The exercise was attended by four central office personnel, four nurses, four secretaries and four teachers — one per school — and subject matter experts from Munson Army Health Center, the Fort Leavenworth Garrison and the Leavenworth County Health Department.
“Our idea behind this is we’re trying to get a 70 percent solution,” said Donald Black, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security emergency management specialist, who planned and facilitated the event. “We’re going to give (district staff) a playbook … and give them as many steps into the process as possible with the understanding that there are going to be changes they’re going to have to make (when various case scenarios come up).”
During the exercise, participants discussed reporting procedures for positive cases; identified the differences between a person of interest, quarantine and isolation; discussed the concerns of staff; addressed commonly asked questions; and received medical input from MAHC representatives.
“We want to be back in school, and we’re ready to do it,” said Keith Mispagel, USD 207 superintendent. “We’re not going to be perfect. That’s why you’re all here is to be part of the solution.”
They discussed five possible scenarios in which someone who tests positive has contact with students or school staff, and how staff and faculty will potentially handle each situation.
“It’s muscle memory,” Black said. “When you do something, you set something, you establish something, then you run through it repeatedly, and that way when it actually happens, there’s not going to be a second thought.
“They’re not going to have to call five people to figure out what to do because that muscle memory is going to kick in, and they’re going to be able to run with it,” he said.
Following the discussion of the possible scenarios, Garrison Commander Col. Harry Hung told the group that a consistent response is important.
“It’s the first time that will be that wake-up call and then everybody gets into that motion,” Hung said. “That first one is going to be the gut-wrenching moment, so continue with what we know works, masks and social distancing, and the procedures that we’ve outlined. They absolutely work.
“I am confident that when the time comes, you just got to execute,” he said. “You’ve got (Leavenworth County Health Department and MAHC) here as well as the Garrison. No other school has the amount of resources that we have invested here, so I’m really confident. … It’s us working together as a team.”
Mispagel said he appreciated the opportunity for the exercise.
“In ongoing discussions with Colonel Hung and his Garrison team … the Munson team, and Don Black and the (Emergency Operations Center) team, we identified the true benefit for collaboration and consistency in response protocol,” Mispagel said. “In doing so, we maximize safety guidelines and timeliness of response and action benefitting our students and staff.
“This in turn will create a containment and mitigation for spread of COVID-19 within the school district,” he said. “The partnership and support from post command and units is further verification of why Fort Leavenworth is considered the best hometown in the Army.
“From this tabletop exercise, my team and I will (go over) all discussion points to finalize the protocols,” Mispagel said. “Our final version will receive a vetting for clarity and accuracy, and, within the next two weeks, as we approach the start of the schoolyear in 20 days, our plan will be shared with the community, parents and staff.”