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Lee County School District addresses quarantine parameters

By MEGHAN BRADBURY / news@breezenewspapers.com - | Nov 20, 2020

School board members continue to address concerns related to the district’s COVID-19 quarantine parameters.

Earlier this month, Board Member Melisa Giovannelli began the conversation after receiving phone calls about students being quarantined for 14 days, returning to school and then being sent home for another 14 days.

“What is the process, expediting testing and getting them back in the classroom?” she asked. “I have some frustrated parents.”

Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said there have been some challenges with tracing and quarantining because of the time it takes to get the test back.

Complicating the issue is the actual quarantine — or lack there of.

Adkins said if you are quarantined, you are quarantined . . . stay home.

“A student reports to DOH, ‘No, this is where I have been,’ and a fellow student turns them in for that particular event. The importance of when you are contacted by DOH, please follow the quarantine guidelines so we have less and less of this. I believe DOH has been a really good partner, but the whole testing weighs in and complicates it,” he said.

District spokesperson Lauren Stillwell said the Department of Health is the agency that oversees any quarantine and isolation issues for the school district.

“They will do the contact tracing and give us the dates of when the students can return,” she said, adding that if a student is being exposed more than once “that’s why potentially more contacts are turning into cases and in that case they might have to stay out for longer because originally they were quarantined and, due to the case, it might extend the time they are out.”

Stillwell said it is up to the teachers and the schools on how they want to handle the instruction once a classroom is shut down, either through Lee Home Connect or Google classrooms to access lessons.

Giovannelli said another issue is when the DOH is contract tracing, they are not always being thorough.

“You have one sibling that is quarantined and the other is going to school every day,” she said.

Stillwell said if there is a COVID-19 case there would be quarantine, but if there is an exposure the sibling would not be quarantined. She said it depends on the situation at the home as well.

“If there is an actual case, then our COVID hotline is going to look into other siblings in the homes, so we can notify the DOH that those siblings have to quarantine as well. It really depends on the situation, too, especially if you don’t live all together, moving back and forth between different homes,” Stillwell said. “There are definitely a lot of things that come into play.”

Unfortunately, the district is seeing a lot of parents sending their children to school when they are symptomatic, Stillwell said, adding they also are seeing a lot of cases where parents are keeping their children home because they have symptoms, but are not testing.

Other parents are delaying testing, sometimes for five or six days after the child has been kept at home, and then find out that the child is positive, she said.

“In reality we should have quarantined other kids in school a week before, but we are getting notified of the positive test way far into the time the parents are keeping them home,” Stillwell said. “We are simply seeing that folks are just not getting tested.”

Giovannelli said testing is key.

“I think we need to sort through this because we are just getting information that everybody is doing their own thing, truthfully,” Giovannelli said.

Stillwell said it is the decision of the parent on how they are going to handle their child’s health.

Giovannelli said she gets that, but testing, with expedited results, keeps things moving along better.

The district now has about 2,000 rapid tests and is working with Lee Health and other community partners to make testing available.

The tests were provided by the state Department of Health.