VEEDERSBURG — Returning to in-person instruction next month will come with some unexpected challenges for school districts, such as what to do if a student tests positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Many preventative measures will be in place at Southeast Fountain schools to help control and prevent the spread of the virus while streamlining post-result procedures like contact tracing.
Superintendent Dan Foster and the district’s board of trustees announced plans Thursday during their regular monthly meeting, which included information and steps for parents for screening and when their child may return to school.
“Right now, basically, we’re kind of in that low-to-no-spread — we’re not saying ‘no spread’ because, obviously, we’re up to 41 (positive cases in Fountain County) and a couple weeks ago we were at 20-something,” Foster said. “It is happening, but it’s basically low and manageable right now, and so the traditional school day would be the best option, with preventative practices and additional proactive processes and protocols.”
Coronavirus screening will be a daily process during the school day, Foster said, as students and staff will be trained to identify symptoms, which include fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, loss of smell, shortness of breath, cough, coughing up sputum and muscle pain.
Screenings in the home will also be encouraged, with board members calling help from parents in the screening process “crucial.”
“We really are going to have to have some assistance from parents, especially with the younger kids,” Foster said.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be excluded from school, and requirements to return will be much like that of influenza.
Additionally, separate areas at nurses’ stations will be available for those who test positive at school.
Students and staff who have experienced symptoms and have been tested for COVID-19 may return to school if the following conditions are met:
• The individual has not had a fever for at least 72 hours without the use of medicine, and
• Other symptoms have improved, such as cough or shortness of breath, and
• At least 10 calendar days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
A fourth option, however, may allow a student or staff member to return as well. The option states the person may return if “the individual has received two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.”
“If they’ve tested positive and are asymptomatic so they don’t have symptoms ... again it’ll be 10 calendar days,” he said.
Furthermore, siblings or other students in the same household as a student who tests positive will be excluded from school for 14 days, adding a period of four days to screen for symptoms.
While masks are not a requirement at this time, Foster and board members said they may become so as conditions change and are encouraging the use of the facial coverings.
There are certain points during a student’s school day when masks will be particularly necessary, Foster said.
“Some things are not allowed on buses, per state law. We will try to provide hand sanitizer for students and drivers,” he said, “but if anyone’s going to wear a mask, this is the place, in my opinion. It is a confined space and you can’t really get away from each other. There’s only so much social distancing you can do.”
Other areas where masks are highly recommended are in the cafeteria and in the hallway.
“Especially at junior and senior high — it’s just the nature of the beast,” Foster said. “We talked about whether we could have (rotating) bell schedules so we could move kids at different times.”
To view the district’s complete (but fluid) plan concerning COVID-19, visit www.sefschools.org.