HERMANN — No longer calling it “quarantine,” Gasconade County R-1 School District directors on Dec. 13 agreed not to “exclude” students in close contact with a COVID-19 …
HERMANN — No longer calling it “quarantine,” Gasconade County R-1 School District directors on Dec. 13 agreed not to “exclude” students in close contact with a COVID-19 infected classmate.
However, students exposed while at home to a family member who tests positive will be out of school.
In a special session, the R-1 Board of Directors spent about an hour discussing the district’s next steps beginning with the start of the second semester in January in complying with the effects of a recent Cole County Circuit Court ruling that said county health departments no longer could quarantine students, leaving the matter to public school officials. Until now, health departments have been following a protocol that called for students in close contact with an infected classmate to be quarantined for up to 14 days. Close contact is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.
“Now, it will be the school district” making the decision to quarantine, said Superintendent Geoff Neill. The board agreed with Neill’s suggestion to relabel the act of removing a student from “quarantine” to “exclude.”
The decision to not remove students in close contact puts R-1 in line with other area school districts. Neill said he spoke with administrators of districts in neighboring counties and all are taking the same approach in the wake of the court ruling.
“No one is quarantining anyone right now in Franklin County, southern Gasconade County (R-2) or Warren County,” he said, noting that he had yet to hear from Montgomery County.
“It would seem that, with that court order, a lot of people are changing their policy,” Neill said of area school district.
The wide-ranging conversation Monday night resulted in the board agreeing to a handful of changes to its plan for dealing with the coronavirus and its effect on students' education.
First, masks will be recommended but not mandated, except when the students are on a school bus, which is a federal government requirement, although it’s evident that masks are not being worn on buses.
Second, students in close contact with a classmate who tests positive will not be excluded, but their parents will be notified to decide if the student should stay home or return to school; the students returning will be asked to check in daily with the school nurse to be screened.
And third, if parents are sick, they will be asked to keep their children at home until the parents can be tested for the coronavirus.
There was some discussion about the district offering testing for the parents, but the superintendent was reluctant to commit to that move, saying he didn’t want the district taking the place of the Gasconade County Health Department regarding testing.
Board President Mark Brooks said he didn’t want to make sweeping changes to the district’s protocols, favoring the few changes recommended by Neill.
“I’m a fan of least-restrictive and raising the level to more-restrictive as the need arises,” Brooks said.
Neill said he would draft a letter in an email to parents explaining the upcoming changes.
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