Area schools scramble to install state’s new coronavirus quarantine rules

Area schools moved fast this week in adopting the latest coronavirus quarantine rules passed down from Ohio health officials and based on new federal CDC guidelines. School officials hope the new, shorter quarantine options will keep more students in school and lessen severe staffing shortages of recent months. (File Photo\Journal-News)
Area schools moved fast this week in adopting the latest coronavirus quarantine rules passed down from Ohio health officials and based on new federal CDC guidelines. School officials hope the new, shorter quarantine options will keep more students in school and lessen severe staffing shortages of recent months. (File Photo\Journal-News)

Area school districts moved quickly this week to adopt the latest state changes to coronavirus quarantine guidelines, and they hope the new rules will keep more students in classrooms.

Ohio health officials announced Friday they would also use the recently announced new protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that in many cases shorten the lengths of quarantines.

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That state move triggered the go-ahead for city and county health departments, which work directly with local school officials, to give their approval for the more lenient quarantine rules for students, teachers, school staffers and bus drivers.

By early this week, school districts were communicating the changes to their school families and employees.

“We sent a mass notification to our families and staff alerting them of the revised guidelines for quarantine, which take effect immediately,” said Fairfield Schools Spokeswoman Gina Gentry-Fletcher.

“We shared the three (quarantine) options available in our notification and are individually contacting students and staff currently under quarantine with new return dates and the circumstances under which they are eligible to return.”

Besides the previously mandated 14-day quarantine option, which has played havoc in recent months in local schools and those across the state by also causing severe school staffing shortages and forcing some districts to cease in-person classes, there are two new, shorter options.

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Now available to area schools are the options of a 10-day quarantine that does not require testing, provided there are no symptoms, and a seven-day option with a negative test, provided there are no symptoms.

“In working with the City of Hamilton Health Commissioner, this guidance document will now be implemented when addressing quarantine situations,” said Michael Wright, assistant superintendent of human resources for Hamilton Schools, in his message sent to school families.

Dawn Gould, spokeswoman for Kings Schools, said “the shortened quarantine times will allow us to get our students back to learning quicker.”

“Because we are not seeing positive cases result from our quarantined students and staff, we are happy that the quarantine time is shortened and after being in school for 14 weeks, we believe that masks are working,” said Gould. “Most of the quarantine and positive cases we are seeing are due to contacts outside of school.”

Lisa Tuttle-Huff, superintendent of Madison Schools, said the new rules will help with the at times severe teacher and staffing shortages forcing some schools to shift away from in-person classes.

“We recognize that quarantines must happen (but) they are straining our resources to have multiple staff members and students out for two weeks at a time on quarantine,” said Tuttle-Huff.

“We recognize that any quarantine shorter than 14 days is balancing our need for educators in the classroom against a small possibility of increasing the spread of the COVID virus. With this guidance, combined with the extra safety measures our district has implemented, we feel secure in the shorter quarantine times, especially if the employee or student has tested negative,” she said.

But Wright cautioned school families and students to maintain their preventive coronavirus vigilance.

“Continue to be diligent about wearing your masks, washing and/or sanitizing your hands frequently and refrain from eating with other individuals,” he said.

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