District No. 32 amends ‘Stay the Course’ plan

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The Perry County School District No. 32 Board of Education has made a change to its COVID-19 plan. The Perry County District No. 32 School Board approved an amendment to its “Stay the Course” plan in a special session on Jan. 6.
The Centers for Disease Control recently shortened the recommended time for isolation for the public.
“People with COVID-19 should isolate for five days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by five days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter,” the CDC said in a release.
The district adopted a similar plan that involves students returning to school if they are asymptomatic after five days, but still wearing a mask for the next five.
District No. 32 Superintendent Andy Comstock noted this was done quickly to get kids back in the classroom sooner.
“If we waited until the regular board meeting next week (Jan. 12), those kids who tested positive would have to stay out longer,” Comstock said. “Now if they are past those five days they can return with a mask.”
Comstock also noted that because staff are considered essential workers they can still come to school with a mask for those 10 days. That provision in the plan remains the same.
School Board vice president Mary Bauwens is for the change in the plan but would also like the district to look into eliminating contact tracing within the schools. Bauwens noted that there are other schools in the area that have already done away with contact tracing.
“Since our local health department is no longer doing anything with contact tracing or positive cases, I think we should follow suit,” Bauwens said. “I know that we should probably check the legal implications of that first, but I think it would reduce stress from our staff and those within the district. It would be following our local health department guideline, and I would like to see where it takes us.”
Perry County Health Department Director Liz House was in attendance for the meeting and noted that the health department stopped contacting close contacts and positive cases because of a lack of resources.
“We were previously only calling positive cases, but we don’t have the resources and staff to do that because of the number of cases that we are seeing,” House said. “Along with the new guidance from the CDC with the five days, it’s just not possible. We are recommending the guidance from the CDC and answering questions, but the issue is that if we are not calling positive cases, I don’t know if a student goes to District 32 or homeschooled, or goes somewhere else. We can’t just call kids and not adults and if we aren’t calling, then we don’t know when their symptoms started.”
Due to the health department no longer verifying the district with positive cases, the district has been relying on parents and guardians to self-report positive cases. From there, staff determine close contacts internally, to which there has been some degree of that already. Which brings up a whole new set of questions for Comstock.
“Because the health department is no longer providing us information on positive cases, when parents call in are we obligated to identify close contacts in that classroom that may have been exposed or send an email out to all the parents in that class saying that their child may have been exposed? Then everyone has to wear a mask in that classroom that may have been exposed. I’m looking to drilling it down to a more specific group.”
Another issue that arose was the credibility of using home tests for verified absences. The district has not been quarantining children that have used a home COVID-19 test. The district uses two definitions for positive cases, a confirmed probable and a suspect case, which is what home tests are categorized as at this time.
“If we do take a suspect case as positive and then we contact trace that, and then that child doesn’t want to wear a mask at school and go home for 10 days, then it comes that that tested person wasn’t positive, how does that look?” Perry County School Nurse Stefany Layton said.
School Board President Jamie Robinson noted that where he works, TG-Missouri, does not accept home tests.
“I don’t think we accept the home tests at TG,” Robinson said. “It may be enough for a person not to come in for the day because I need to get a more reputable test.”
The consensus at the end of the meeting was to check the legal ramification of doing away with contact tracing before the Jan.12 meeting, where there would be a vote by the board. The board will also look into the viability of the home test.

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