School districts react to new guidelines aimed at keeping schools open

MENIFEE COUNTY, Ky (WTVQ)- Kentucky health and state leaders released new guidance for schools this week aimed at keeping students in the classroom.

This comes as omicron cases in the state continue to soar at what educators call alarming rates.

The guidance updates K-12 isolation and quarantine guidance, which depends on if a school district requires masks.

For schools that have mandatory mask requirements, individuals do not need to quarantine following at-school exposures to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 as long as they are not experiencing symptoms. Those individuals are recommended to be tested 5-7 days after a known at-school exposure. Contract tracing is not required for at school exposures for schools that have mandatory mask requirements.

“I noticed the big change was taking once someone has tested positive, taking that down to a 5-day isolation and then come back with universal masking for 5 days. We’re still in the process of reviewing everything,” said Menifee County Schools superintendent Timothy Spencer.

Districts that don’t require masks must follow specific guidelines to remain in-person. Schools must identify individuals who have had close contact with a person diagnosed with
COVID-19 in the school setting. A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infectious person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period while the person
was considered contagious.

Currently, Menifee County Schools require masks. There is also limited virtual learning.

“It is concerning sometimes as far as making sure that we have staff in the building, adequate substitute teachers within the building,” Spencer said. “And just overall, making sure our students and our staff and our entire school community is in a safe and orderly environment to where everything is conducive to learning.”

Fayette County Schools public information officer Lisa Deffendall says the district thinks the new rules will mean students miss fewer days. But some of the other changes still are being reviewed.
In Menifee County, Spencer says the next challenge is getting the information out to the parents and staff.

“We’ll be working very closely with our area health department, be working with our district health coordinator and our school nurses,” Spencer said. “Once we review all of the information into making sure we are presenting that information in the correct and appropriate manner, we’ll present that to our staff, as well as our parents.”

Several school districts and health departments we reached out to declined an interview because they say they want to make sure they have a clear picture of what is required.

Click here to view the updated guidelines.

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