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Strong Schools NC Toolkit Changes

 

 

Good evening everyone.  I have some important information to share with you and I thank you for taking the time to view this recording.  

On February 21, a new version of the Strong Schools Public Health Toolkit will go into effect.  As you know, the Strong Schools NC Toolkit, which is a publication of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, has served as a guide for Yadkin County Schools and all school districts in North Carolina as we worked to reopen schools, and keep them open, over the past two years. As we have moved through the different stages of the pandemic, we have been committed to revising our response in order to reduce the risks to students and staff.  

There are two major changes in the Toolkit that will affect our schools. These adjustments are the elimination of contact tracing in North Carolina’s schools and the practice of keeping students and staff who are not symptomatic out of school after exposure to COVID-19, assuming they haven’t tested positive after exposure.  I have said in the past that we have had many students who were considered contacts to a positive who were excluded from school because of the requirements that school districts had to follow, but most of these never got sick.  These changes will help us keep even more students in school.

While contact tracing has been an important strategy for slowing the spread of COVID at earlier points in the pandemic and while it remains important in certain high-risk settings where many people are congregated together, individual contact tracing is a less effective tool for responding to the pandemic in schools at this phase for several reasons.  First, our nation and countries around the world have seen the emergence of Covid variants that have shorter incubation periods.  Secondly, the onset of the most contagious period is rapid. If people are infected they are most contagious a couple of days prior to onset of symptoms and during the first few days of illness. We also know there are much larger numbers of asymptomatic and less severe cases, in all likelihood due to immunity we have in the community.  Finally, many Covid infections are never identified by public health agencies because persons with asymptomatic or mild cases are not getting tested.

Therefore, the impact that individual contact tracing has during this stage of the pandemic will in all likelihood be very limited in school settings. Therefore, individual contact tracing and exclusion from school after an identified exposure, regardless of location of exposure, whether it be at school or at home, is no longer recommended statewide in K-12 schools.

Although exclusion from school for five days is no longer required statewide for people who have been exposed and have no symptoms, our schools will work with families who may want their asymptomatic students to stay home from school for five days if they have been exposed.  

The one area that will not change is when students and staff test positive for COVID-19 or develop symptoms of COVID-19. If your student tests positive, or is showing Covid symptoms,  the exclusion for both of these scenarios remains the same.  If your child has tested positive or is showing Covid symptoms, he or she will be excluded for at least five days and will need to wear a face covering for days 6-10 when returning to school.

If your student has symptoms of COVID-19, and you get your child tested by a medical provider, and he or she receives a negative COVID-19 test result or if you visit a health care provider and receive a  diagnosis other than Covid that would explain the symptoms, you can send your child back to school.  Please remember that your student must be feeling well and it must have been at least 24 hours since your child had a fever without using fever reducing medicine.  

We will continue to offer two, free, school-based testing programs in each of our schools that parents can choose to participate in.  

● The first testing program is our diagnostic testing program that is used when someone has symptoms.  This test is given at school, but is shipped to a testing lab and usually takes around 2 to 3 days to receive the results.  If your child is showing symptoms, and you want to have your child tested at school before taking him or her home, you can do so.  This will save you time in terms of getting your student to a medical provider.

● The second testing program is our school-based screening (SBS) program for COVID-19. This screening test can be an important layer of protection for students without symptoms, but who are concerned about a known or possible close contact with someone with COVID-19. This screening process can detect if your child has COVID-19 in about 20 minutes and reduce the risk of further spread. If you are interested in having your child screened, please visit your school’s website and click on the school-based screening tab.  When opting into school-based screening, your child will be screened over a 5 day period.

Lastly, as most of you already know, on Wednesday, February 16th, the Yadkin County Board of Education voted to make face coverings optional in all schools beginning on Monday, February 21st. This date coincides with the date the Strong Schools NC Toolkit changes  take effect.  We will no longer use the exclusion rate to determine when to mask. Beginning this Monday, students and staff in all of our schools will no longer have to wear a face covering unless they are riding on a bus.  Regardless of the face coverings policy in our schools, all passengers and drivers should wear face coverings on buses due the CDC’s current order, which applies to all public transportation, including school and activity buses.

Again, my thanks to each of you for taking the time to view this message.  I wish you all a good day and evening.