Students Expected to Mask When Symptomatic
When students return to school next week, pandemic mitigation practices will no longer be required for healthy individuals. Following the State Department of Education’s most recent guidance, masking will be by and large a choice, except for those who just suffered a bout of Covid infection or display even mild symptoms of respiratory disease. “Mitigation strategies will continue where 2021-22 ended,” said Amity Supt. Dr. Jennifer Byars when she updated the district’s Board of Education at its regular meeting on August 15.
The district will make sure that air filtration and HVAC systems are serviced and performing at recommended levels; and that the schools provide access to outdoor spaces as much as possible. At the high school, students can have lunch on the patio adjacent to the cafeteria. They also continue to offer four lunch waves rather than two.
The state adopted a “Test-Mask-Go” strategy, whereby students who exhibit mild respiratory disease symptoms but are fever-free are expected to test every day for Coronavirus and mask up during the symptomatic period.
Students who test positive or are running a fever of 100° or higher are required to stay home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without medication. Those who test positive are required to stay home for at least 5 days, with the day they tested positive being counted as Day Zero.
“We have to trust our families to do the right thing – and to report it to us, even as we get to the winter months,” Dr. Byars said. During the winter and spring, other respiratory diseases and allergies can easily be mis-identified as potential Covid culprits.
School nurses will be reporting positive cases to a state database, but there will be no contact–tracing. Instead, they will be looking for cluster outbreaks, such as on athletic or debate teams, maybe a classroom cluster. Those have never happened at Amity, Byars said. However, should they have reason to believe that such a cluster occurred, the school will pass that information on to the health departments for input.
In the past, clusters occurred primarily outside of school, often as a result of overnight trips or parties.
Vaccination clinic: The best mitigation strategy at this point is to be vaccinated, Dr. Byars said. Therefore, the district will be partnering with Griffin Hospital and hosting a vaccination clinic on Thursday, September 22, at the high school, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The clinic is open to staff, students and accompanying family members. Both adult and child vaccinations will be provided. Dr. Byars does not expect large numbers of people to show up, and if they do, the district can always schedule subsequent clinics, she said.
Covid info: Conversation ensued at the Amity board meeting of whether or not the district should continue posting the Friday Covid numbers on the district homepage. Dr. Byars said Covid updates will be embedded under the District News tab, and link to the statistics provided by the state. “Covid is now part of our normal operation,” she said. “We are trying to move past the [crisis] mode.”
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News correspondent