Community uses Ascend to record potential symptoms, exposure with goal of keeping COVID-19 out of school

Katherine Mote

As school resumes in person, many new protocols have been introduced to keep students and faculty safe, including a partnership with Ascend Base Camp Health to provide a daily health screening tool for students and employees.

 “Ascend is a web-based platform that we are going to use to help make sure the people on campus are symptom-free,” Middle and Upper School nurse Marcia Biggs said. “This will be used as a double-check system to ensure the safety of everyone on campus.”

Every morning, administrators and teachers are given a list of which students have not completed their Ascend survey. Those who have not submitted it prior to first period class will be asked by their teachers to show them a “green check mark” on the website or call their parents to do so for them immediately.  Biggs’ hope is that with continued reminders and good habit forming, the school will not need to chase anyone down or create consequences.

“When you sign-in in the mornings, some symptoms are weighted heavier than others,” Biggs said. “Those [symptoms] that are more closely associated with known COVID-19 symptoms like the loss of taste or smell will immediately notify you that you are not allowed to be on campus for that day.”

If one receives a red “X” on the app or is notified that they’re not allowed to go to school, they will be contacted by administrators to analyze their situation and better evaluate their symptoms. Some symptoms might not be COVID-19 and could instead be seasonal allergies or sore muscles from a workout. If this happens, the school will reach out so one can explain what is going on and figure out the best path moving forward. 

For some, Ascend has told them they are eligible to be on campus when actually they needed to stay home. This happened to sophomore Cren Boyd. 

“I arrived at campus that morning [after having filled out the Ascend] and I sat down at breakfast and checked my email,” Boyd said. “I got an email saying I wasn’t allowed to be on campus because I had come in contact with someone who tested positive. I then texted my parents who had already gone [to work] and they had to turn around to pick me up.” 

When Boyd had filled out the survey that morning she marked no symptoms and Ascend listed her eligible to come on campus. Later that day she received an email to discuss her symptoms and touch base with the school. She explained her lack of symptoms and was able to return to school the following school day.

“Because of the need, administrators and others will watch over which students have completed surveys or not,” Biggs said. “ESD has a whole host of people and about eight or nine sets of eyes and administrators to make sure they don’t miss anyone.”

“We have to trust [students] and trust that [they’re] going to hold each other accountable and hold each other to a higher standard.”

Nurse Marcia Biggs,
School Nurse

Temperature checks are mandatory for the survey before one gets to school. Students also receive a second check at their first class of the day to ensure the accuracy of temperature checks and double-check that every student is cleared to be on-campus. Because this program is mostly used by students, it relies on the users’ honesty. 

“We have to trust [students] and trust that [they’re] going to hold each other accountable and hold each other to a higher standard,” Biggs said. “It’s not just you, there are other people involved and we’re hoping that [students] take that seriously.”

If one gets a red “X” and is told not to come to school, it does not automatically mean that they must quarantine.

“[The red ‘X’] means okay, let’s talk this through and see what happened, what prompted that red ‘X’ and how can we get you the assistance you need,” Biggs said. “I’m hoping that if our kids know this they will be more forthcoming and more truthful.”

According to a Sept. 26 poll of 249 students, 45 percent have forgotten to fill out Ascend before coming to school at least once.

“It’ll slowly become a habit,” freshman dean and assistant director of outdoor education Dawn Eatherly said. “In highschool you get so much more independence and your parents are expecting you to do it.”

All COVID-19 cases on campus are reported to the county as well as being recorded in the parent portal to give parents complete transparency when it comes to their children’s safety.

“We will identify people by their division and their function,” Biggs said. “Hopefully, with this program, ESD will be able to catch known contacts or known carriers of  COVID-19 before they come to school.”

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