Three days after classes at Marion-Florence schools had to be canceled because 60% of middle school students were in COVID-19 quarantine, school board members changed policy on attendance during quarantine and lengthened Thanksgiving break.
Classes were canceled this past Friday in the hope that time and extra cleaning would head off expansion of an unusually high number of students in quarantine.
Board members voted Monday to extend Thanksgiving break to include the entire week.
The idea was to reduce exposure while giving staff and students a longer break, superintendent Aaron Homburg said.
Under new quarantine rules, students with a household member who has COVID may continue to attend school if they have a positive antibody test or proof of having already had the virus during the past six months.
A vaccinated student or athlete may attend school as long as he or she wears a mask and tests daily with the school nurse. Students may quit testing after the 14th day of quarantine if they test negative. Masks will be required during the first seven days of quarantine, but not during athletics or physical education.
The previous policy was that students were tested on the third, fifth, and seventh day.
If a student quarantined because of exposure has a negative antibody test or is unvaccinated, he or she must stay home until isolation of the relevant family member ends. After the family member is released from isolation, students may return to school with negative COVID tests on the first, third, fifth, and seventh days.
Masks are required at school through Day 7 after the isolation ends, except when participating in athletics or physical education.
If any school building has 5% of its population absent with a positive test, masks will be required in that building for a week.
Centers for Disease Control and state department of health guidelines differ from school district guidelines.
CDC guidelines are that someone who is fully vaccinated doesn’t need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID unless they have symptoms, but should be tested five to seven days after exposure. An antibody test does not count for this purpose.
CDC guidelines say such students should wear masks indoors in public for 14 days after exposure or until their test results are negative. They should isolate immediately if they experience symptoms.
An exposed person who tested positive for COVID within the previous 90 days, has recovered, and remains without symptoms does not need to quarantine.
Homburg said last Friday that about 70 students were in quarantine. Additionally, the entire middle school basketball team — 25 students — was in quarantine because one member had an active case of COVID.
The district had seen an increase in quarantines over the two weeks before Friday’s school closure.
At that time, Homburg had hoped the schools could push through until Thanksgiving break.