Covid-19 has yet to totally disappear, and as long as it remains a health hazard, the public schools will have to continue to adjust their approach to the virus.
At Tuesday’s School Committee meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly and Public Health Director Lauren Buck outlined the Covid policy for the fast-approaching new school year.
“We hope that this guidance meets the goal of keeping kids in school as much as possible safely,” said Buck. “That’s the goal this year in terms of Covid policy. There are still some CDC guidelines that we have to abide by in terms of isolation, and these are baked into the policy.”
Buck said there are some new things that will be added into the new school year’s Covid policy, as well as some things that the school will not be continuing from last year. “First of all, for a scenario of anyone who tests positive for Covid, unfortunately the CDC still requires a five-day isolation, so we will be abiding by that with a five-day isolation from the date of a positive test or the date that symptoms begin,” said Buck.
Students and staff who test positive are able to return to school on day six, but they must wear a mask for the next five days.
The scenario for people who have been exposed to Covid but haven’t tested positive has changed from last year. “We do not require a quarantine anymore, which is really good,” said Buck. “That means a lot more kids and staff will be able to stay in school. Obviously, the big caveat here is that it is as long as someone is asymptomatic.” If someone is exposed to Covid and is asymptomatic, they will be able to continue to come to school regardless of vaccination status.
The next policy the school system is looking to implement at the beginning of the school year is symptomatic testing, which the schools didn’t do last year. “If a symptomatic student or staff member is on site, we want them to be evaluated by the school nurse, who will determine if it is appropriate to have a rapid antigen test,” said Buck.
Even if someone tests negative, the student or staff member could still be sent home if the school nurse determines they are symptomatic. “If it is determined that they can stay in school, masking is strongly encouraged until the symptoms are resolved,” said Buck. If there is a positive test, the five days of isolation required under the regular policy will begin.
Masking will be optional for the school year, with the exception of students and staff who test positive and must mask for the five days after they come out of isolation. Masking will be encouraged for any students who feel more comfortable wearing masks as well as any students or staff who are immunocompromised or have family members who are immunocompromised.
Some of the policies that will not be in effect for the coming school year include pool testing, test and stay, and contact tracing.