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Appo schools using QR codes to track staff for COVID contact tracing

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

Anyone who has been to a restaurant in the last few months might have scanned a square barcode with their phone to pull up their dinner menu or pay for their meals to limit contact with servers. Now schools are using them to track their staff.

When hybrid learning began Oct. 19, Appoquinimink School District started using QR codes to track staff members as they enter and exit buildings for COVID-19 contact tracing.

Each school has its own unique code that is placed at the entrances, exits and some classrooms in all buildings, lead nurse Yvonne Camac said, and teachers and staff members are expected to scan it every time they come or leave.

When scanned, the code launches a Google form that asks for their name and phone number and if they are entering or exiting the building. The information is automatically entered into a spreadsheet that shows when each staff member was in the buildings.

Appoquinimink schools are using QR codes to track staff for COVID-19 contact tracing and electronic hall passes for students.

“It's not used for anything other than contact tracing. If we were to get that call, and [the Department of Public Health] would need to know who was in the school during this time,” Camac said. “We can access that document to see who was there and then maybe contact them and say, ‘What areas of the building were you in? Were you in any specific classroom?’ And we would do an interview investigation like that.”

Stephanie Balascio, Cedar Lane Early Childhood Center nurse, came up with the idea when she visited a restaurant that used a QR for its menus instead of a paper one.

“When we started [school], we had some staff members coming in. We wanted a way for staff members to come in without touching anything,” she said. “Usually during normal years, they would sign in books near our secretaries, but this year we wanted it to be contact free.”

Balascio said the spreadsheet doesn’t leave the contact tracing only to the memory of the staffer.

“Some of the teachers are only Monday, Tuesdays, some work Thursday, Fridays, and some people are here all the time, so it's really helpful to do the nursing staff, instead of relying on the person you're interviewing,” the ECC nurse said.

Even though nurses are the only ones with access to the sheet, she said some teachers were a little apprehensive about taking part in the process.

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DPH notifies the nurses when there has been a positive COVID-19 case in the district and nurses are expected to notify all those who have had close contact with the person, which could mean a two-week quarantine.

Public school districts are required to notify families when they learn of positive cases in their buildings, in an Aug. 26 modification to Gov. John Carney’s State of Emergency, but students or teachers cannot be named if they test positive due to federal privacy laws. 

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Although most teachers and staff stay in the same buildings, some special services and student teachers go to multiple schools throughout the day.

Because teachers take attendance throughout the day, Camac said the QR code system was not needed for students. Visitors use another tracking system called Raptor. The system does a background check when the visitor’s ID is scanned and someone logs the person’s time in and out of the building and where they went.

As of Oct. 14, Camac said they haven’t had to use the spreadsheet.