WCSD Updates Health and Safety Plan with Modified Contact Tracing

New plan will allow students to remain in school after close contact providing masks were worn properly during contact, no positive test or symptoms

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RUSSELL, Pa. – The Warren County School District Board of Directors unanimously approved a modification to its Health and Safety Plan Monday aimed at reducing the number of students denied entry due to close contact with a COVID-positive person.

The modification, which came on the heels of a lengthy discussion during last month’s Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee meeting, allows students to remain in school following close contact provided they meet certain criteria.

The modification says the district will, “Follow Department of Health and John’s Hopkins contact tracing protocols applicable to close contact at school with the modification that, regardless of distance apart, a student shall not be deemed a close contact and shall not be excluded from school by the District if the student and potential contact(s) were properly wearing face coverings and the student is neither COVID-19 positive nor symptomatic. Any such student that is not excluded by the District shall be permitted to self-quarantine if desired. Any such student that is excluded by the District because he/she is either COVID-19 positive or symptomatic may return to school when permitted to do so pursuant to the Department of Health guidelines.”

There was no discussion on the motion prior to the vote, though the district did provide a list of “Rationales” for taking this action.

The first point asserts that there is “no statute, regulation, or legally binding Order” requiring the district to either perform contact tracing or deny entry to non-symptomatic students.

In the second point, the issue of the importance of being in class is raised.

“The Board agrees that students that are COVID-19 positive, symptomatic or not properly masked during a potential exposure period should be excluded from school, but the Board also must consider the educational harm, social harm, the impact on mental health, and the other adverse consequences associated with excluding students from school for extended periods of time and sometimes for multiple, extended, periods of time,” the document reads. “The Board feels that the ESSER Plan (which is different than a Board policy and not subject to the Board’s policy requirements) strikes the appropriate balance by continuing contact tracing, excluding COVID-19 positive students, excluding symptomatic students, and excluding students that are not properly masked during a potential exposure period, while allowing those students that were properly masked and that are not either COVID-19 positive or symptomatic the option to remain in school.”

Other points raised on the “Rationales” document include giving the parents and/or students the option to self-quarantine, lack of contact tracing in other settings, the district has no authority to issue isolation or quarantine orders, and the fear of additional learning loss due to time spent out of the classroom.