Dewey Public Schools

Posted: Jan 10, 2022 7:01 PMUpdated: Jan 10, 2022 7:17 PM

DPS Board of Education Revises COVID Protocols

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Garrett Giles

Dewey Public Schools' (DPS) Bulldogger Back to School Plan relating to COVID-19 quarantines and isolations for the 2021-2022 school year receives revisions.

Superintendent Vince Vincent says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came out with new quarantine and isolation time periods in late December. Vincent says the time frame for these categories has been reduced by the CDC to five days as opposed to 10 days. He says people can return to schools on day six if symptoms have diminished and/or the individual is asymptomatic.

Vincent says household close contacts would be able to return to school in that same time frame, but there is a recommendation that they wear masks. He says there is an exemption for those who are considered to be fully-vaccinated.

Board Clerk Amanda Guilfoyle says one thing the CDC specifically states is that people are to wear a "well-fitted mask" for five days after returning from being quarantined. Guilfoyle would recommend that the plan state that they wear a mask and not a gaiter. She says she would like to show that the expectation is to wear a mask and not a gaiter to school following a COVID-19 related quarantine, which would follow the CDC's guidance while obeying State law.

Vincent states that the responsibility for masking ultimately falls on the students and staff. He says he agrees that there needs to recommendations that proper masks should be worn, however, he says things get difficult when they start to require masks. The Board would agree that they could recommend that students and staff returning from quarantine wear a well-fitted mask.

Board Member David Cleveland asked about fully-vaccinated persons and the reasoning behind letting them back into school even if they were deemed to be a close contact. Guilfoyle says the thought behind it is that the majority of COVID-19 cases now are omicron and that if you have been vaccinated with the booster shot within a six month window or you have been positive with the virus in the last 90 days that your ability to fight the variant is good enough to where you wouldn't have enough viral load to spread it as easily as you have with the previous variants. She says this is why vaccinated individuals are given some leeway.

Vincent adds that previous protocols did not call for fully-vaccinated persons to be quarantined. He says the only caveat to that is that full-vaccinated carries a different connotation because fully-vaccinated is considered boosted if you are outside the six months of receiving your second dose. He says the CDC guidelines have some varying degrees to vaccination status and what they recommend when it comes to quarantining.

In terms of extra-curricular activities, the plan states that if as student returns to school after being in quarantine for five days they will be allowed to participate in events. When speaking with other schools to get an opinion on the matter, the district was told that students that returned from quarantine were allowed to come back and participate in their regular school activities.

Guilfoyle would question if students and staff would need to test negative before returning to school. Vincent says the conversation was considered, especially for household close contacts, but they ultimately decided against the idea. He says the problem is that they would see a lag with testing, the lack of availability of at-home testing, and much more.

On-campus testing is not possible because the man power isn't there. Vincent says they already have good access to the Washington County Health Department and local pharmacies for testing, too. He says they could add that students would need a negative test before returning to school or they could go with the plans before them and re-evaluate within the next month or so. The Board decided not to add that a negative test before returning to school.

The DPS Administration team along with DPS's Return to Learn Committee discussed the plans prior to the Board's unanimous approval of the revisions on Monday night.

Vincent says they have tried to be cognizant of all aspects when reviewing and implementing the district's COVID-19 protocols. He says they believe this plan gives them a chance to strike a balance between everything surrounding the virus; they believe they can keep people safe while keeping students in school as much as possible.

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