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Northland Pines School Board votes on COVID quarantine rule changes

Katie Thoresen

Having experienced the COVID pandemic last school year, Northland Pines school board discussed changing the school policy concentrating on “close contact” with positive cases and what close contact is, choosing, in a split vote, to allow individual students to undergo daily pre-screening protocol and remain or return to school.

District administrator Scott Foster emphasized “this is about kids, no one wrote the book on this, we are drafting the book as we go along.” He said “close contact” for the school means “15 minutes or more within six feet of a positive.”

Foster indicated they are concerned about the negative impacts of students missing in-class instruction in addition to their physical and mental health.

“Students are missing a lot of school with 64% missing at least one day and 499 having missed five or more days,” Foster said. “Staff are seeing the negative impacts of missing so much school and families are impacted due to quarantines.”

Foster admits the district is only one part of the community trying to live with the virus and community close contacts are not followed with on-line learning not as practical as last year due to fatigue of students and volume of time out. He said “staff are split and they see both sides of the issue.”

Two options for quarantine were January 3 which would be the first day back to school after the break or January 19 the first day of the second semester which would allow more time for vaccinations.

Foster wanted families to know these are new options, not a change to no rules. Parents were both supportive and opposed to the change. The district has added another school nurse to aid in handling suspected cases.

Director of Special Education, Emily Rhode, said, “We don’t know when this will end and collectively, we’re falling apart socially and emotionally.”

Board member Jennifer Payne indicated “our goal is to have kids in school five days a week, but nothing is simple.”

The board adopted on a 6-1 vote to allow students to attend in-class instruction provided they have daily screening for 14 days from the date of “close contact” exposure and if students or staff develop symptoms they must quarantine but may test on or after day five and return with a negative rapid test result. Board president David Weber cast the negative vote.

Northland Pines is not the only district to make similar changes.

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