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New COVID protocols in some school districts

Some unvaccinated students can “Test to Stay” in school
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 7:11 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Parents and staff in the Sunnyside district just learned of new COVID protocols in schools. It is a big shift on a few fronts and Sunnyside isn’t the only district.

The superintendent said charges are being made to keep kids in classrooms as much as possible to tackle learning loss and the mental health crisis. Steve Holmes sent this letter to staff and students on Tuesday that spells out the new rules.

“Although it feels a bit like Groundhog day,” he said, “we’re still opening schools with some concerns from parents and staff and students around this new variant.”

The surge in omicron cases is a worry, but the superintendent said the district is following CDC and Pima County Health guidelines. The first shift impacts students and staff who test positive for COVID regardless of vaccination status. They will now only have to isolate at home for 5 days instead of 10.

Holmes said so far an average of 100 students per week test positive in a district of about 15,500 students. Students and staff who are up-to-date on vaccinations can skip quarantine.

Another major shift applies to unvaccinated students exposed to someone with COVID, but show no symptoms.

|”Now we have this “test to stay” protocol in place, meaning that if a student is in close contact. In the past they would have to isolate for a number of days. Now you could actually test,” he said.

Parents have to approve that test given by a nurse or health assistant or students stay home. If results are positive, students must go home immediately. They get to stay in school if the tests are negative and students remain symptom free.

The district has 2,000 test kits on hand with 5,000 more are expected next week.

Despite a nationwide shortage of COVID tests, Holmes say he has enough.

“We have many on order,” he said, “I do know there’s a push to get more tests. We ordered a lot of tests prior to the break on anticipation of this particular change in procedure. So as of now, we do”

Holmes said he’s heard from the health department that there’s plenty of tests available.

He’s been told the district has to order in batches because the COVID tests only have a shelf life of about 3 months.

Holmes says he’s anticipating an uptick of COVID cases, “but I feel like we’ve got at least the beginning stages of being prepared for this month and moving into February.”

The district’s mask mandate remains in place and Holmes said he’s stocked up on masks, a half million of them.

Districts received the update from the Pima County Health Department yesterday.

Here are district responses on any changes in protocols:

Flowing Wells: “We are updating our procedures to reflect current guidance from the CDC and Pima County Health Department to allow potentially shorter isolation periods, shorter quarantine periods, and the option to participate in test-to-stay as an alternate to quarantine.”

Catalina Foothills: “Catalina Foothills School District is following the same protocol (as Sunnyside). We remain committed to keeping our students in school, and our schools open for in-person learning.”

Marana: “MUSD has revised our protocol based on CDC and Pima County guidelines. We are currently reviewing the County’s “Test Mask Stay” Program.”

Tanque Verde: “Tanque Verde USD received the test to stay plan information yesterday, so we haven’t changed but are looking at the plan.”

Amphi: “Amphi will also be rolling out the Test to Stay program in the near future.”

Vail: “Vail is currently reviewing the “test to stay” protocols, but has not voted to make any changes yet.”

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