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The Sioux Falls school board unanimously voted to change the rules for how students and staff should quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
Previously, those who were identified as close contacts to a person who tested positive for the virus were required to quarantine for 14 days. Now, in some instances, including when all parties involved were wearing masks, students will be allowed to return to the classroom sooner.
The policy changes go into effect Thursday, Superintendent Jane Stavem said. Those currently in quarantine will start receiving notices about how to proceed next, she said.
The new rules include:
- In a setting where everyone is wearing face coverings, any asymptomatic student or staff member who had close contact may return and monitor for symptoms in lieu of quarantine at home.
- In a setting where the initial positive case is not wearing face coverings, the initial positive case will isolate at home, and any student and staff member who had close contact will quarantine at home.
- In a setting where the initial positive case is wearing a face covering, but others are not, the initial positive case will isolate at home. Those close contacts not wearing a face covering will quarantine at home; those close contacts wearing face coverings may return and monitor for symptoms in lieu of quarantine at home.
- In a setting where no person was wearing a face covering, the initial positive case will isolate at home, and any student or staff member who had close contact with the initial positive case will quarantine at home
If symptoms do develop within the 14-day quarantine period, the student or staff member will be excluded and must isolate at home, the rules state.
The potential change follows what superintendents called mixed messaging from the state about how to handle quarantine.
The state education department clarified a few weeks ago that the ultimate decision of how long students and staff should be quarantined rested in the hands of local school boards. The department also stated that the 14-day quarantine time was not a requirement from the state health department, as initially perceived.
The change also follows data released by Stavem earlier in the week that less than 1% of students and staff had tested positive as of Monday, while more than 5% of students and almost 1.5% of staff were currently in quarantine.
Sioux Falls is the largest district in the state, with more than 25,000 students and more than 3,000 employees.
The decision did not pass without debate though. Nearly a dozen people signed up to speak to board members about the changes ahead of the vote, with only a few speaking against, saying the district was moving too quickly or urging the district to pass a mask mandate along with the changes.
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