Springboro Schools, a participant in the pilot program for the past three weeks, was able to keep 13 direct contacts in school who never developed symptoms of COVID-19, Marshall said. Weekly positive COVID-19 case numbers in the district have been between 9 and 16 during the pilot program. That’s down from in September when weekly cases ranged from 20 to 41.
Mason City Schools was able to keep 57 healthy students in school during the pilot program, according to a district spokeswoman.
“This new quarantine option allows healthy students to stay in school — preserving students’ ability to connect with their teachers and classmates,” said Jonathan Cooper, Mason City Schools superintendent. “We are also grateful to be able to leverage testing in order to allow healthy kids to actively engage with their extracurricular activities — something we know is critical for their mental health.”
Will more local schools change guidelines?
The majority of Montgomery County school districts have face mask mandates. Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, said county districts are open to adopting the new guidelines from ODH but she’s not sure whether districts will rescind their mask mandates at the same time.
“Obviously, they will be taking that to their board of education or their teachers unions and/or their cabinet members,” Cox said. “You know there’s a lot of discussion that has taken place to put the mask mandates in place. So getting rid of them obviously will take time and discussion.”
The superintendents of Dayton Public Schools and Kettering City Schools both said their districts will need time to discuss these new guidelines from ODH before making any decisions.
“We will need to take a look at these guidelines in more detail before making any decisions with regard to processes we currently have in place surrounding masking and quarantining,” said Scott Inskeep, superintendent of Kettering City Schools. “As always, our decisions are grounded in our desire to keep students safe and in school.”
Cox said the test to play portion of the new guidance is welcome but could be logistically challenging because none of the districts have the ability to do testing on site.
Dan Suffoletto, a spokesman for Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County, said that students and school staff should wear face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The new state guidelines, which call for masking in leu of quarantining, further emphasized that masks provide good protection, he said.
What’s in the new guidelines?
The new guidelines are for students and staff who were exposed to COVID in a classroom setting or school-related activity. Those exposed to COVID-19 outside of school should continue to follow standard quarantine measures, Vanderhoff said.
Schools can immediately begin implementation, but they are not required to adopt the state-issued guidelines. Parents can opt out of them, he added.
Under Mask to Stay, students and and staff can continue with in-person learning after being directly exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting if they do the following:
- Wear a mask for at least 14 days after the initial exposure date.
- Self-monitor or have a parent monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
- Isolate and get tested if they show symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of the severity of symptoms.
- Students and staff can discontinue the masking after seven days if they don’t develop any symptoms and if they test negative for the virus between days five and seven from their exposure.
Though parents and individuals are responsible for monitoring for symptoms under Mask to Stay, if a school staff member or nurse sees someone showing symptoms for coronavirus, they should act accordingly, Vanderhoff said.
Test to Play permits students and staff to participate in extracurricular activities after being directly exposed to COVID in a school setting if they do the following:
- Wear a mask when able, such as while on a team bus, in the locker room or while on the sidelines or bench.
- Get tested for COVID-19 once they learn they were exposed to the virus.
- Test again between days five and seven following the initial exposure.
- Students and staff can discontinue the quarantine procedures after seven days if they test negative between days five and seven.
Students and staff can use either PCR or rapid antigen tests, Vanderhoff said. However, the tests must be proctored or observed. He added with Test to Play, schools should consider same-day testing for athletic competitions.
The Test to Play option focuses more on testing because it can be harder for participants to wear face masks and social distance during extracurricular activities, he added.
By the numbers
Weekly new COVID-19 cases in schools as of Oct. 21:
Greene County: 91 student cases, 15 staff cases
Miami County: 53 student cases, 17 staff cases
Montgomery County: 118 student cases, 22 staff cases
Warren County: 165 student cases, 13 staff cases
Vaccination rate in 12- to 17-year-olds as of Oct. 25:
Greene County: 47.2%
Miami County: 26.4%
Montgomery County: 42.4%
Warren County: 55.6%
Source: Ohio Department of Health