School board releases draft COVID-19 plan for fall
July 29, 2021
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
Alachua County Public Schools has released a Fall 2021 DRAFT COVID-19 Response Plan ahead of the August 3 school board meeting (6 p.m. at the Alachua County Administration Building). The document states that the recommendations are “based on the best science available at this time and the current vaccination rates and level of COVID-19 transmission in Alachua County” and that they are subject to change.
The section on face masks says masks are “strongly encouraged for people who are not fully vaccinated” indoors, particularly for children under 12. Masks are not needed outdoors except in crowded outdoor settings for unvaccinated people. However, at today’s meeting of the School Health Advisory Committee, it appeared that the committee intends to recommend mandatory masks.
The document specifies that “Schools should be supportive of people who are fully vaccinated but choose to continue to wear a mask” but does not include any similar language for those who make other choices on masks or vaccination.
All passengers and drivers are required to wear a mask on school buses and other school transportation because of a federal CDC Face Mask Order that applies to all public transportation.
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The document is specific that cloth masks should be made with two or more layers of fabric and must not let light pass through when held up to a light source. Gaiters must have two layers of fabric. Scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, bandannas, and face shields do not fulfill the requirements of the Order.
This statement is highlighted: “In accordance with School Board Policy 8450.01 – Protective Facial Coverings During Pandemic/Epidemic Events, the Board may require students to wear a face mask unless they are unable to do so for a health, sensory, or developmental reason.”
Schools are required to maintain at least 3 feet of distance between students who are not fully vaccinated or at least maximize the distance between students as much as possible. Six feet of distance must be maintained between adults and students and between adults who are not fully vaccinated.
All students must wash their hands immediately before and after eating. Six feet of distance should be maintained between students during mealtimes “whenever possible.” Student seating during meals should be documented to support contact tracing: “Seating during meals should align with class seating charts, when possible.”
Schools are encouraged to explore options for eating meals outdoors.
Schools are required to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between students and limit rehearsals to 30 minutes followed by a break to allow for at least one air change. When playing recorders in class, the bell should be covered with saran wrap, and students should wear a mask with a slit for the mouthpiece.
Student groups, teams, and organizations
Students returning to school after a positive COVID-19 test and isolation period must “obtain clearance from a physician before participating in any school sports program.”
It is recommended that schools consider student-only events and consider alternative platforms for spectators like live-streaming.
Symptomatic students should stay home, but if they develop symptoms while at school, they will be sent to the nurse and provided with a mask if they don’t have one. The student will be isolated (in the “designated isolation room”) if the nurse determines it is necessary, and they must be picked up from school as soon as possible. They cannot travel home on the bus.
If the school has a consent form on file, the nurse will administer a rapid antigen test. If it is positive, unvaccinated close contacts and household members must quarantine. If the test is inconclusive, it will be repeated, and if it is still inconclusive, a PCR test will be offered. The student must isolate at home while the PCR test is sent for lab processing. If the test is negative, the nurse will offer a PCR test, and the student must isolate at home while the test is sent for lab processing.
If the PCR test is negative, the student may return to school after their symptoms have improved and they have remained fever-free for at least 24 hours.
If the test is positive or the student does not take a test, the student may return to school after at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and they have remained fever-free for at least 24 hours. The student can also provide a note from a doctor that clears them to return to school.
Confirmed positive cases
Students who test positive without symptoms may return after at least 10 days have passed since the date of the positive test.
When someone with COVID-19 has been on campus during their infectious period, the school will collect details of any close contacts during the period of two days before symptoms developed and at least 10 days after.
Close contacts include any person who:
was within 6 feet of someone with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period.
lives in the same household as someone with COVID-19.
had direct exposure to respiratory droplets from a person with COVID-19 (sharing utensils, etc.).
Close contacts who are at school will be immediately isolated until they can be transported home; they may not use group transportation such as the bus to get home. Close contacts are required to quarantine at home and not attend school or extracurricular activities until they’ve been cleared to return. The Health Department will follow up with families of close contacts to offer optional COVID-19 testing on Day 6 of quarantine.
Returning to school after quarantine
Quarantine can end after Day 10 without testing if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring, but the returning persons must wear a mask through Day 14, maintain 3 feet of distance, and follow cleaning and disinfection protocols.
Quarantine can end after Day 7 if a PCR test performed on Day 6 or later is negative and no symptoms have been reported. The same protocols apply through Day 14 as above.
Students who live in the same household as someone testing positive must quarantine for the full 14-day period.
In K-12 classrooms, the close contact definition excludes students within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student if both students were “engaged in the consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks.” This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults.
If a close contact has recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, they do not need to quarantine.
If a close contact is fully vaccinated, they do not need to quarantine unless they have new COVID-19 symptoms.
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