Based upon the latest guidance, Bulloch County Schools has updated its protocols for mitigating infectious illnesses, which includes COVID. The school district began implementing the updated protocols for employees and students on Wednesday evening after school administrators, school nurses, and district supervisors were notified.
“Our protocols have continued to evolve with ongoing state guidance updates and with what we have learned about general infectious illnesses in schools, good health practices, and personal health responsibility,” said Charles Wilson, superintendent of schools. “We will continue to implement our Return-to-School Plan and implement DPH requirements to the best of our ability and as reasonably as possible, while we also balance the overall safety and academic and social-emotional wellbeing of our students.”
The key change is in quarantine requirements for close contacts who are exposed to a confirmed COVID case while at school. If the point of exposure occurred at school, employees and students no longer have to quarantine, whether they are vaccinated or not, as long as they remain asymptomatic. The school district has a Daily Health Self-Check flyer and webpage for an easy reference of illness symptoms as part of its Return-to-School Plan at www.bullochschools.org/returntoschool and from the school.
In the DPH’s latest Administrative Order for Public Health Control Measures (15), Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, states in a list of actions for Quarantine of Persons Exposed to COVID-19 that while, “Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on quarantine remains the safest way to protect teachers and students from the spread of COVID-19,” the DPH recognizes, ” the importance of in-person learning.” As a result the DPH states that, “Schools may elect to adhere to different quarantine requirements as developed by the local school district to facilitate in-person learning.” However, the key point states that, “Individuals subject to quarantine may only adhere to such different quarantine requirements as long as the point of exposure occurred in the school setting and as long as they remain asymptomatic.”
School administrators are notifying employees and parents of students who were in current quarantine periods due to exposures at school that they now have a choice of how they follow quarantine guidance. They may choose to follow the current 7-, 10-, or 14-day quarantine practices, or remain at work or school as long as they have no symptoms of illness.
“This moves us closer to how we handle other infectious illnesses in our schools, like Influenza, Chicken Pox and Strep,” Wilson said. “We absolutely want people to stay home if they are sick, and we depend upon families to exercise personal responsibility to monitor their health before they come to work or school.”
The school district has a team of 17 registered and licensed practical nurses who identify anyone who becomes sick at school and sends them home until they are cleared to return. Prior to COVID, it was never the practice to send healthy people home to quarantine due to exposure to an infectious illness unless they become symptomatic.
“These updated protocols give families back their ability to make responsible personal health choices in relation to their school environment,” Wlson said.
The school district will continue to support employees’ and parents’ choices for their children. Student absences are excused for COVID-related quarantines and illness and distance learning is provided for face-to-face students who are absent or quarantined.
School nurses will notify the Department of Public Health immediately when a positive case is identified in the school, and they will provide DPH a weekly report of COVID cases, quarantines and clusters amongst employees and students in the school district. Bulloch County Schools will also provide a weekly report of this same information on its website, so that it is readily available to the public and news media. This weekly public reporting link is posted at the top of the homepage of the district’s and all schools’ websites in the red News Alert section.
Please review the complete Bulloch County Schools Return-to-School Plan for Infectious Illness Mitigation and also on that webpage are the updated general protocols to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses and the updated specific protocols for COVID isolations and quarantines for students at school. The webpage is www.bullochschools.org/returntoschool and is also linked in the red News Alert area of all school district websites.