BY MEGHAN FLYNN Garden City Telegram
The $457 school board approved adjustments to the district’s COVID-19 response plan at a special meeting Monday.
Changes have been made due to new guidelines issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas State Department of Education, as well as guidelines from the Kansas County Health Department. Finney regarding contact tracing.
Steve Karlin, superintendent of 457 USD, said the guidelines “essentially give school districts the option to suspend contact tracing for 30 days,” from Jan. 18 through Feb. 18.
Monday’s special meeting was held to share what the changes would look like for the district and to seek guidance from the board of education on whether or not to take advantage of the 30-day contact tracing suspension, Karlin said.
Additional guidance from KDHE shortened the quarantine to five days of isolation, then if people don’t have a fever or symptoms they can return to school on day 6 if they wear a mask for five days.
Glenda LaBarbera, assistant superintendent of 457 USD, said that under the new guidelines, there will be no tracing with close contacts in schools. In high school for example, they draw a circle around the positive and these students must wear a mask for 10 days, this would not happen again.
Also, in elementary school, because students stay in the same room with the same group of other students all day, the entire class is designated as close contact, so they must wear a mask for 10 days, a said LaBarbera. This would also be suspended with the new guidelines.
The school/classroom’s green, yellow and red color system would continue, LaBarbera reported.
“It’s a great way to keep parents informed,” she said. “Green means there are no positives in the class, yellow in this case would mean there are only positives.”
Before the change, yellow status meant a positive status and quarantine status, with the change, it will only mean there is a positive, LaBarbera said. Masks are optional for families.
“Right now what we’re doing is having students wear a mask for 10 days as a modified quarantine, but with this change masks would be optional,” she said. Nor will families be
Families will also no longer be notified via reminder messages that a student is a close contact, LaBarbera said.
One thing that will be a little different, but will continue, is family contact, LaBarbera said. If a student is symptomatic, they will quarantine for five days, then return on day six and wear a mask for another five days once they are free of fever or symptoms.
If they are asymptomatic and a household contact, have tested positive in the past 90 days, or are fully vaccinated, they can still return to work or school as long as they remain asymptomatic, a said LaBarbera. If they are not vaccinated or have not tested positive within 90 days, they would do the quarantine period of five and five.
If students or staff are not a family contact, they would continue to come to work or school, LaBarbera said.
“This piece would go on pretty much the same except for the length of what we did, the fives and fives instead of the 10,” she said.
Karlin said the Department of Health will no longer contact families for school contact, but for household contact, that’s a different story.
“There they are going to impose a quarantine, but it is for family contacts, not for school contacts,” he said. “What we’re stopping doing is basically contact tracing at school.”
Karlin said they always differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, even though both groups can get COVID through CDC guidance, because although there have been breakthrough cases with vaccinated people, some have a level of protection.
“This is all just one element to try to minimize the risk of you having someone passing it on at school,” he said. “I think the logic behind having something there comes down to even if they’re not perfect, the chances of a vaccinated person having it is less than someone who’s not vaccinated. .”
A red status would indicate an escape, or a cluster as the Department of Health calls it, LaBarbera said. The Ministry of Health would still have the power to quarantine a class or children, or a school if they see an outbreak.
“We send all our positive cases to the Ministry of Health, we are required to report them,” she said. “Whenever they see multiple in a class, in the past it was three, but that may change, I think they may be considering redefining what a cluster would be. Then they call the parents and they let us know the status, but they take care of all the notifications.
The Board of Directors will review the change in direction at its regular meeting on February 21.
Board member Mark Rude said he thought the change in focus was a step in the right direction and hoped to see more changes in the future.
“I think the way I see the national and international discussion and reading some of DC’s comments over the last two days, we could make some adjustments over the next month or two on top of that, going into the Same direction. I hope that’s true,” he said. “I think we owe it to the public to make an adjustment based on KDHE’s recommendations and that’s fine.”
Another board member, John Wiese, agrees.
“I hope things will continue to evolve in this direction,” he said. “I think we kind of have to align ourselves with the direction the state is going, just in the fact that I think it’s been a big burden on our school district, trying to keep track of all of this…C There’s a huge amount of work that’s been brought to our district by COVID, so if we can take a month off, I think everyone would appreciate it.
457 USD released information on Tuesday about what a parent should do if their child is sick or thinks they have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 at school or elsewhere.
They asked parents to consider keeping their child home for five days after exposure. After that, the child can return to normal activities, but must wear a properly fitting mask around others indoors and outdoors for a further five days.
Parents should have their child tested five days after exposure, or immediately if they become symptomatic and should continue to monitor their child for symptoms of COVID-19 for 10 days after exposure.
If symptomatic, the child should be tested with a diagnostic test if one is available. If the child is sick or tests positive, parents are asked not to send their child to school.
Any student who tests positive for COVID-19 should stay home for at least five days and be fever-free for 24 hours without the use of anti-fever medication before leaving home.
Thereafter, the child can return to normal activities but wear a properly fitted mask indoors and outdoors for an additional five days.
Parents must notify the school if their child tests positive.