Changing Covid protocols cause confusion

Emma Alderman | editor in chief

Frequent changes to USD 329 COVID-19 protocols have made the rules difficult for some students and families to follow.

“We get these differing constant changes, not that “science” doesn’t change or shouldn’t be challenged, but then that loses trust,” superintendent Brad Starnes said. 

One of the biggest causes for confusion is that the definition of close contact always seems to be changing. 

The CDC currently defines close contact as someone who was less than six feet away from an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. There is an exception for students in K-12 indoor classrooms that excludes students between three to 6 feet of an infected student if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore masks the entire time.

The confusion over close contact is no longer a worry for the district, due to the fact that there will no longer be any contact tracing done by the schools. The reasoning behind this decision was revealed in a letter released by Starnes on Monday of last week.

To help alleviate some of the pressure on our schools, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, along with the Kansas State Department of Education, support schools implementing a 30-day temporary suspension on all contact tracing activities. “Our testing has gone down and everyone has started understanding the close contact definition better,” district covid coordinator Charmin Miller said.

Another recent change has been adjustments to the quarantine and masking periods for a confirmed positive case. After having tested positive for COVID-19, a student or staff member must then quarantine for 5 days. The first day that symptoms appear does not count for the 5 days due to it being labeled as day 0. After the five-day quarantine a student or staff member can return to school as long as their symptoms are all gone and they were a mask. After wearing a mask for 5 days the student or staff member may return to normal. 

As of Friday, 16 WHS students were in either the quarantine or masked return periods. 

“It goes back to the old rule of thumb, if you’re sick, stay home because even if it’s the flu or something else — it’s still something that can be spread,” Miller said. 

The Covid protocols aren’t the same for everything though. For example, masks are still required for all students when riding buses. The Kansas State High School Activities Association also has different protocols than the school district. During the ten-day period after a positive test, athletes may not participate in sports for practices or competitions. After that they must have one practice before they can compete.

“A player should at minimum participate in at least one team practice before returning to formal competition for coaches to assess the student’s overall physical conditional status and the student’s readiness for competition,” athletic director Jeron Weisshaar said.

So far Wabaunsee High School has not had to cancel any sporting events due to Covid. The Marysville wrestling meet was in jeopardy due to Covid but was ultimately canceled because of bad weather. The junior high on the other hand had to cancel or reschedule 7th and 8th grade girls basketball games last semester.

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