Local schools, health officials respond to quarantine changes

The Ohio Department of Health’s revisions focus on students and staff exposed to the virus wearing face masks and getting tested to allow them to continue with classroom learning and school-related extracurriculars. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
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The Ohio Department of Health’s revisions focus on students and staff exposed to the virus wearing face masks and getting tested to allow them to continue with classroom learning and school-related extracurriculars. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County is recommending that local K-12 schools change their quarantine procedures due to new state guidance aimed at keeping more students and school staff in the classroom.

The Oakwood and Lebanon school districts said they are revising their quarantine policies, and several other districts said Tuesday they are still reviewing the new guidelines from the Ohio Department of Health.

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The new “Mask to Stay” approach from ODH says students who have direct contact with a COVID case in school can stay in class — even if they were not masked at the time of exposure — if they take the following steps:

  • Wear a mask for 14 days after their last date of exposure;
  • Self-monitor, or parent-monitor, for symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Isolate and get tested if they start to experience any COVID-19 symptoms.

ODH says if a student or school employee is following those steps and tests negative for COVID on Day 5-7 after exposure, they can stop wearing the mask (depending on the local school’s rules).

Huber Heights Superintendent Mario Basora said it was unlikely his district would change its policy at this time. The Huber Heights school board let their mask mandate expire last week and didn’t pass a replacement.

Centerville school officials said they were reviewing the guidance Tuesday, while Yellow Springs officials are waiting to talk to county public health staff Wednesday.

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“I will say in reviewing the changed guidelines (Mask to Stay), because the changes concern in-school exposure, it does not seem much different to what we already have in place,” Yellow Springs superintendent Dr. Terri Holden said. “Most of our exposures have come from out-of-school contact.”

In many schools, all students are already masked, so the policy change has less effect.

Public Health spokesman Dan Suffoletto said the new ODH change pertains to unvaccinated students and staff who were exposed to COVID in a classroom setting or school-related activity.

“Let’s say it’s two kids who go to the same school, yet they were driving ... together in the same car doing something outside of school,” Suffoletto said. “Then this ... doesn’t apply.”

He added that vaccinated people only need to monitor themselves for symptoms.

Those exposed to COVID-19 outside of school should continue to follow standard quarantine measures, ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Monday.

Schools are not to required to adopt the new state-issued guidelines and parents can opt out of them, he added.

Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, said most area superintendents are researching and discussing possibilities, but will discuss any changes with their school board and other stakeholders before making changes.

“We are working on revisions to our quarantine policies based on the ODH guidelines,” Oakwood schools spokeswoman Traci Hale said Tuesday. “We will be sharing those with families, students and staff as soon as possible.”

A Warren County pilot study gave state officials confidence that not many of the COVID exposures within school settings were resulting in people catching the disease.

Lebanon Superintendent Isaac Seevers said their pilot protocol also required COVID testing after exposure, and some parents chose to keep their children home rather than have them tested. Seevers said the new ODH approach will allow those students to stay in school.

“These guideline changes will keep more healthy students in school and connected to staff and their peers,” he said. “COVID is still present in our community and schools but we are confident that our tracking measures and pilot data point to the fact that community spread inside of our school buildings has not been significant.”

Data show similar trends elsewhere. In Centerville through Oct. 22, 605 quarantines in the district have been recorded because of exposure to positive cases outside of school since mid-August, according to the district’s website.

Meanwhile, quarantines because of exposure to positive case at school in the same time frame total 390, records show.

ODH also introduced a “Test to Play” system, whereby COVID-exposed students without symptoms can continue to participate in extracurricular activities. To do so, they must wear a mask at most times, get a COVID test when they first learn they were exposed, and test again in days 5-7 after exposure.

Staff Writer Jordan Laird contributed to this report.

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