Quarantine classrooms becoming the ‘new norm’ at three Pottawatomie County school districts

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The director of the Pottawatomie County Health Department says 64 new positive cases of coronavirus were confirmed between August 22 and August 28.

Leslie Campbell provided an update to commissioners Monday. In that, she mentioned some local districts are now actively utilizing quarantine classrooms, for students who were close contacts of COVID-19 positive individuals at school.

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Rock Creek USD 323 Superintendent Kevin Logan tells KMAN they are not planning on using quarantine rooms this fall, despite looking into it as a possibility last week.

“We instead will give our parents/students the option of “quarantine” (at home) or “test to stay at learn” (daily testing of students/staff through their quarantine period so they can remain at school),” he said in an email to News Radio KMAN Monday.

Campbell says the purpose of these quarantine rooms is to keep kids essentially in school after the Kansas Legislature passed a law earlier this year that capped remote learning to 40 hours for all school districts. In a follow up email to KMAN Monday, Campbell says the move by these districts seems like a desperate move, She says while it was used with effectiveness last year to mitigate the spread of the virus, school officials then weren’t dealing with the much more contagious delta variant.

Campbell says grant funding from KDHE should be available this week to schools that will open up on-site weekly COVID testing and allow for extra staffing.

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Students who are in the quarantined classrooms are required to wear masks and must be spaced six feet apart. Districts can provide larger space if necessary, but could potentially create a logistical challenge if the number of students in quarantine becomes too high. Students also are required to test each day to remain in school.

How does it work?

Campbell tells KMAN, when schools utilize a quarantine room, there is a teacher in the room with them. Typically it will be a teacher that has been exposed along with the students if it is an elementary school class. The child typically comes late and leaves early. School nurses also check on the students twice a day. Those students eat in the classroom or separate times and recess or outside time is only allowed with quarantined kids away from others. Extra cleaning for those areas is provided as possible.

For the high school or middle school students, the students are monitored, but remote into the classroom, similar to how they attended remotely last year from home. Paper handouts can also be provided when a connection is not supported and help can be provided to the quarantined students via Zoom, instead of waiting hours.

Campbell maintains that vaccination continues to be the best way to be exempt from quarantines.

The health department gave around 40 doses of vaccines and for the month of August had administered 242 shots as of Monday.

 

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KMAN News Director and host of In Focus. Contact Brandon at Brandon@1350KMAN.com

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