Coronavirus

More Than Twenty Douglas County Schools Could Become COVID Outbreaks

Douglas County's Chaparral High School was designated as a COVID-19 outbreak site shortly after the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.
Douglas County's Chaparral High School was designated as a COVID-19 outbreak site shortly after the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. Google Maps
On August 25, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released an updated report about COVID-19 outbreaks in the state. Its addition of 51 new or tweaked entries listed fourteen schools, including four in Douglas County, where commissioners voted to reject masking advice from the Tri-County Health Department.

These outbreaks could be just the beginning for educational facilities there. The Douglas County School District maintains a data dashboard showing daily cases of the virus among staffers and students. Over the fourteen days leading up to August 26, sixty of 71 schools monitored on the dashboard (not counting an additional eighteen charter schools that aren't included) had registered at least one case of the disease. And 23 of them — more than a third of the total — exceeded the five cases currently required by the CDPHE to qualify as an outbreak.

Leading the way is Parker's Chaparral High School, which became a lightning rod of controversy during the 2020-2021 academic year after more than 100 students took part in an unmasked "Senior Sunrise" event shortly before viral spread was confirmed there; its five-case outbreak was identified last September 24 and resolved in early November. This time around, the dashboard lists forty COVID cases discovered at Chaparral between August 16 and 26.

The outbreak standard has changed for schools since the start of the pandemic. Back then, the CDPHE identified outbreaks based on two or more COVID-19 cases among residents, staffers, attendees and other people connected to a specific location confirmed within a fourteen-day period. But beginning in June, the department began applying the two-infection rule only to residential health-care and correctional facilities.

Outbreaks at schools and other sites now require at least five confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in a fourteen-day period. There's often a delay between the reporting of cases and official verification, however, since state health department personnel must first investigate and authenticate the data.

In its August 25 report, the CDPHE noted outbreaks at four Dougco schools: Bear Canyon Elementary, Cimarron Middle School, Mesa Middle School and Roxborough Intermediate School. In each instance, the number of cases calculated by the health department is lower than the August 26 total on the Douglas County School District dashboard: six versus eight at Bear Canyon, eleven versus twelve at Cimarron, five versus seven at Mesa, and six versus fourteen at Roxborough.

On the Dougco dashboard, ten schools count their current COVID cases in the double digits. Douglas County High School has 29, for example, and ThunderRidge High School has thirteen. Nine more high schools register at least five cases each, along with nine elementary schools and four middle schools, plus Roxborough Intermediate, which serves third- through sixth-graders.

We've reached out to the Douglas County School District for comment. In the meantime, here are the 23 with at least five cases in the two weeks leading up to August 26, appearing in alphabetical order:

Bear Canyon Elementary
8 cases August 16-23

Castle Rock Elementary
8 cases August 16-25

Castle View High School
6 cases August 17-26

Chaparral High School
40 cases August 16-26

Cherokee Trail Elementary
11 cases August 16-24

Cimarron Middle School
12 cases August 16-26

Douglas County High School
29 cases August 16-26

Frontier Valley Elementary School
9 cases August 16-25

Highlands Ranch High School
5 cases August 16-24

Legend High School
12 cases August 13-25

Mammoth Heights Elementary School
13 cases August 16-26

*Mesa Middle School
7 cases August 16-25

Mountain Vista High School
7 cases August 13-23

Pioneer Elementary School
6 cases August 16-23

Ponderosa High School
7 cases August 16-23

Prairie Crossing Elementary
10 cases August 16-23

Rock Canyon High School
5 cases August 16-26

Rock Ridge Elementary School
5 cases August 17-25

Roxborough Intermediate School
14 cases August 13-26

Sagewood Middle School
15 cases August 13-26

Sierra Middle School
9 cases August 17-26

Summit View Elementary School
6 cases August 13-24

ThunderRidge High School
13 cases August 17-25

This post has been updated to note that sixty of 71 Douglas County schools had positive COVID-19 cases over a recent fourteen-day period.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts