Student quarantines: Warren County schools begin testing new COVID-19 plan this week

TYSON THORP / CONTRIBUTED
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TYSON THORP / CONTRIBUTED

Starting this week, Warren County’s school superintendents will implement a new pilot quarantine plan that has been approved by the state in an effort to keep healthy students in school and keep sick students at home.

Warren County Educational Services Superintendent Tom Isaacs and 10 other school superintendents submitted a proposed pilot plan the state last month that will allow students who may have been exposed to COVID-19 but are healthy and exhibit no symptoms, to be permitted to remain in school with testing requirements.

Parents were notified on Friday morning. He said the pilot program is optional and parents can decide whether or not their children will participate.

ExploreWarren County plan to keep unvaccinated, unmasked students in school gets nod from Ohio governor

Under current Ohio Department of Health guidelines, students exposed to coronavirus are required to be quarantined at home if they’re not vaccinated and their school doesn’t require face masks, social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention policies.

Under a new multi-tiered plan, when an unvaccinated student, who is not wearing a mask, is identified as a close contact, the following three options would be given to families:

  • Traditional quarantine: Ten days at home or return to school on day seven with proof of a negative test result on day three, and again on day five, six, or seven.
  • Mandatory mask quarantine: If the student is symptom-free, he/she is allowed to return to school wearing a mask for 10 days.
  • Modified mask and testing quarantine: If the student is symptom-free, they are allowed to return to school wearing a mask. Between days five and seven, they will have the option to take a rapid test at school. If the test results are negative, they will continue to follow the current mask status for their specific school and grade level.

Isaacs said the student must test negative twice to stay in school and a positive test will mean a student will be home on isolation.

In addition, the Ohio Department of Health is requiring students who are exposed COVID-19 to attend in-person school classes but will not be able to participate in any extracurricular or athletic activities, Isaacs said.

“The governor may expand this program if it is successful,” Isaacs said. “This is an issue of multiple quarantines and students can’t learn if they are not in class.” He also said quarantines are also “devastating” to parents who take time off from work to be with their children.

Lebanon Superintendent Isaac Seevers told the Lebanon Board of Education Monday that the program is optional and the testing will be done at no expense to the district or families. Seevers, whose district implemented a mask mandate following a spike in positive COVID-19 cases nearly three weeks ago received approval for the mandate be extended through Monday before the roll-out of the pilot program

Last week, Isaacs appeared before the Ohio State Board of Education to give board members an update on the proposed pilot program.

Isaacs said the district superintendents and ODH are still working out many details on how to operate the program. He said once the program begins, Vanderhoff and the ODH will review the Warren County data after three to four weeks of implementation to determine the effectiveness of the plan.

In addition to the issues of students not in class or parents becoming frustrated, Isaacs said the pandemic has forced school districts to stretch themselves as there is a shortage of school nurses, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and substitute teachers, he said. Isaacs said some employees have been doing double-duty with helping in other departments or helping nurses with contact tracing.

He said the Warren County Commission is using $800,000 to $900,000 of its American Rescue Plan funding to hire about a dozen nurses on a contract basis to help school nurses. Each nurse will be assigned a school district to work in to provide assistance. Isaacs said the state has already shipped testing kits to Warren County for use at school and at home.

“We have had nurses working 15-hour days doing daily nursing as well as doing the quarantine follow-up, he said. “We’ve had nurses quit because of the stress.”