Schools say new quarantine rules could make difference in staying open

Beavercreek High School students work in the library Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Many students' school years have been interrupted by 14-day quarantines when they've been closely exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Beavercreek High School students work in the library Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Many students' school years have been interrupted by 14-day quarantines when they've been closely exposed to someone with COVID-19.

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Local schools are eagerly awaiting permission to shorten their COVID-19 quarantine procedures for students and staff, after the CDC offered that option for certain cases this week.

School officials and Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County both said they are waiting for the Ohio Department of Health to review the CDC options and give local guidance. That’s because the CDC said shorter quarantines should only be used if local outbreak conditions and resources warrant it.

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ODH spokeswoman Melanie Amato would only say Thursday that ODH is “evaluating the update from the CDC and will have more details soon.”

Brookville Superintendent Tim Hopkins said Public Health officials told Montgomery County schools on Thursday to stay with 14-day quarantines for now. Hopkins said that “may affect our ability long-term to stay open.”

Many local schools say 14-day quarantines have been one of the biggest obstacles to student learning and teacher staffing as they try to maintain in-person classes the past few months.

“If this were to be approved at the state and county level, we would move to these new guidelines immediately,” Beavercreek schools Superintendent Paul Otten said Thursday. “One of our greatest struggles has been our ability to keep our students who are under quarantine up to speed with what they are missing in the classroom.”

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For months, on CDC guidance, people closely exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 have been told to quarantine for 14 days. That’s because people can be infected with the coronavirus during the days after exposure, and pass the virus on to others before they know they are infected.

On Wednesday, the CDC said 14 days is still best, but they offered two other options — ending quarantine after Day 10 if the person has no symptoms, or ending it after Day 7 if there are no symptoms and the person has a negative COVID test result.

Springboro schools spokesman Scott Marshall said his district will follow whatever the guidance is from ODH and the Warren County Combined Health District, “in the best interest for the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff.”

But he said shorter quarantines would make a significant difference, both for students and for school staffing levels.

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“For staff, this could prove significant in limiting the number of days a teacher, bus driver, or staff member is out on quarantine, which could potentially lessen the impact for subs across several days,” Marshall said.

Troy Superintendent Chris Piper, whose district has reduced in-person classes in part due to quarantining, said that’s not the only issue.

“Shorter quarantine periods would provide more opportunity for students to learn in person, but our mode of operation is driven more by community spread (of COVID-19) than anything else,” Piper said.

Dayton Christian in Miami Twp. has had in-person classes all fall. Spokeswoman Julie Thompson said the school hopes to follow health department guidelines.

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“However, if there is a significant delay in an update to this protocol from them, Dayton Christian leadership will consider incorporating the new CDC quarantine options into our COVID-19 protocols,” Thompson said.

DC officials said to keep classes in-person, they have to closely monitor how COVID-19 is affecting both the school’s “commitment to academic excellence and our community’s safety and health.”

“Quarantine guidelines play a significant role in whether we can continue to strike a balance between these two important factors,” Thompson said.

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