School districts in the region continue to modify and refine their responses to covid-19, including the Indiana area, where Superintendent Michael Vuckovich announced changes that will take effect when students return on January 3.e.
Vuckovich writes in a long public letter that there will be no change for symptomatic or non-school exposure to covid, but for asymptomatic students and staff who are exposed at school or in the bus, the district will implement a new-to-school alternative to quarantine. The exposed person must wear a mask for fourteen days after the last exposure date, and they can choose to have a covid test using the district’s internal program; they should self-monitor or watch parents for symptoms; and they should self-isolate and get tested if they develop any symptoms, no matter how severe. In addition, for those who are medically exempt from wearing a mask, they should perform a test on the initial exposure and on the fifth to seventh day.
The new policy is similar to policies adopted in several other Indiana County school districts.
M. PUBLIC LETTER FROM VUCKOVITCH:
Updated IASD Health and Safety Plan
Please read the article to learn more about some important changes to our health and safety plan.
December 21, 2021
School districts across the country face a serious dilemma as the situation surrounding the pandemic continually changes. As you probably know, the PA Supreme Court recently ruled that the mandate of the mask in schools was unconstitutional and referred the decision whether or not to mask to local school boards. The move comes as new variants of the virus emerge and the number of challenges facing schools continues to escalate. School districts now face the challenge of balancing public health and safety concerns with the significant learning and mental health gaps emerging from this crisis. With the lifting of the mask mandate and no changes to the rules that determine “close contact exposures” and quarantines, those numbers will increase dramatically, making this balancing effort even more complex and extremely difficult. We need to find a logical and appropriate response to mitigate the spread of disease while responsibly reducing the number of days students spend away from school and the activities that make them learn and grow.
With this safe but sensible effort in mind, we worked with the Department of Health (DOH) to develop a new approach to quarantine procedures for asymptomatic students and staff that would be acceptable to their requirements. After careful consideration of this option, the Indiana School District Board of Directors has made the decision to change the quarantine procedures that we will be following as of January 3, 2021.
There will be no change in how we approach symptomatic students or non-school related exposures (those that occur at home or in the community outside of school). It is important to remind our families that state law requires under Title 28 Pa. Code Chapter 27 (relating to communicable and non-communicable diseases), that schools must:
- Report positive cases of COVID-19 to the DOH for case investigation, contact tracing and issuance of quarantine and / or isolation orders; and
- Exclude school children and staff from having contact with other school children or staff showing symptoms of a communicable disease.
School officials have the power to prohibit people who are at risk of spreading COVID-19 from entering the school building. Schools do not need, and should not require, a quarantine order to take this action to protect the health and safety of students and staff.
Changing our quarantine procedures will focus on how we deal with asymptomatic students who are exposed at school or on the bus. As you know, we have written to you several times to express our concerns about the number of quarantines facing our families and our community. It has been a constant conversation and has resulted in the frustration of many. Quarantining students at home who have been exposed to COVID-19 in a school environment has the unintended consequence of reducing learning in school and can be an additional strain on parents, schools and childcare services. local health. Although vaccination and the use of masks are essential elements in ensuring a safe school environment, the district has developed a school alternative to quarantine asymptomatic students and school staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 in a school environment to support learning in school and reduce pressure on the aforementioned groups.
The following changes to the quarantine process only apply to exhibits at the school. Family / community exposures will continue to be quarantined as we have done for the past two years.
As part of the revised plans, direct school-related contacts, regardless of vaccination or masking status, asymptomatic students / staff may choose to remain in the classroom environment if they do the following :
- Wear a mask for 14 days after their last exposure date.
- Students and staff will be offered the option to take a COVID test through the district’s internal testing program at no cost to families or staff members. Parental consent is required before any student test.
- Self-monitoring or parental monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19.
- Isolate and get tested if they begin to experience symptoms associated with COVID-19, regardless of their severity.
If unable to wear a mask due to a medical exemption, the student may remain in the classroom environment if they perform the following actions:
- Test upon initial notification of exposure to COVID-19, then again on days 5-7.
- Self-isolate and get tested if the student begins to experience symptoms associated with COVID-19, regardless of the severity.
If a student does not have a current medical exemption signed by a licensed health care provider, they will be required to wear a mask for 14 days.
Students / symptomatic staff will be required to self-quarantine to mitigate exposure and spread of disease.
Students / staff who choose not to comply with the options listed above will be quarantined for 14 days. No student will be tested on site without parental consent (written / electronic consents only – no verbal consent is accepted).
Asymptomatic contacts may continue to participate in extracurricular activities if they do the following:
- Wear a mask when you can. (Transportation, changing rooms, sidelines and at all times the mask will not interfere with breathing, activity or create a safety hazard.)
- Testing upon initial notification of COVID-19 exposure.
- Test again on days 5-7. If negative, no further test or mask is required on day 8.
In conclusion, I know that these procedures will not end the pandemic and that they will not keep all children in school. However, they seek to achieve this logical and sane balance in supporting the health, safety, socio-emotional and academic needs of our students. These are difficult times. Many of us are divided over how our leaders should handle the pandemic and over many of the challenges we face on a daily basis. I commend the Board of Directors for their leadership during this unprecedented time. They always lead with what is best for our students as a guiding principle and do their best to navigate these turbulent waters while trying to meet the diverse needs and perspectives of our community. Hope you can all find some family time to reconnect, relax and rejuvenate while on vacation. We all need it right now. Rest assured that everyone is doing their best to get through it all, and we will – together. Your grace, compassion and consideration are needed more than ever, as we may face even greater challenges in the near future. For more information, visit our website to view our health and safety plan.
Mr. Michael J. Vuckovich
Superintendent of Schools