Schools

Board member: Quarantine policy too aggressive

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Crawfordsville schools are being too aggressive quarantining children potentially exposed to COVID-19, a school board member said Thursday.

Under guidance from the state health department, the district places students in quarantine if they were six feet from a COVID-positive child for 15 minutes or longer in a 24-hour period, which is considered close contact.

In the schools, students including athletes isolate from each other in fear they will be sent home for sitting too close, said board member Kent Minnette, who called for a less restrictive policy.

Minnette pointed to parent concerns about the policy and the lack of coronavirus spread in school buildings, which administrators reaffirmed as students settled back in after the holidays.

“We are protecting our community on little evidence that it — needs to be on the backs of our students and educators,” Minnette said during Thursday’s regular school board meeting at Crawfordsville Middle School.

“I don’t want to make this about the activities, but we know from the shutdown and from the hybrid model that the best educational model is for the kids to be in school,” he said. “But what we have is a de facto hybrid model because of our aggressive quarantining.”

Surrounding school districts have the same guidelines for quarantining students. Health experts say close contacts need to stay home for up to 14 days after the date of their last exposure.

The quarantine can end after 10 days if the person remains symptom-free, and after seven days if an asymptomatic person tests negative for the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state health department advises schools to use good judgment in measuring a student’s exposure. Standing with others at lockers for some time, for example, would likely be close exposure rather than passing each other in the hallway multiple times.

“The kids believe that all of these cameras are being used to spy on them all times,” Minnette said, adding the harms from strict quarantine policies far outweigh the benefits and protections.

“But we don’t know,” said board member Susan Albrecht.

“We did know this spring and it was wrong,” Minnette said. “We shouldn’t have shut down. The hybrid model was wrong and we know that now.”

Superintendent Dr. Scott Bowling said school nurses are trying to follow recommendations from the state health department, which he said laid out conflicting guidance in its latest update to school clinics.

Bowling said administrators have discussed quarantine policies with the school nurses.

“We’re just trying to go through the best we can, but those are ongoing discussions,” he said.

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