Springboro, other schools to participate in pilot program for new school COVID-19 quarantine rules

WARREN COUNTY — Springboro schools and nine other school districts in Warren County are working with the Warren County Combined Health District to pilot a new program aimed at limiting the number of quarantined students who are a close contact to a COVID-19 case, but are not showing any symptoms of the virus.

“This pilot program is limited to 10 school districts and is being coordinated by the Warren County Combined Health District. If early experience is positive, we may look to expand this opportunity statewide to schools and local health departments who feel this alternative is appropriate for their district and community,” said Alicia Shoults, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health.

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The program comes after the ten superintendents sent a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff last week.

“We are continuing to quarantine healthy students at home,” the superintendents said in the Aug. 27 letter, adding that they believe it’s a serious concern for the mental health of students, disrupts the education system’s integrity, has led to distrust and anger in communities and also has an economic impact on families and local businesses.

The districts met with state leaders on the proposal Wednesday, according to Springboro Superintendent Larry Hook.

“The big piece of this is there is this big number of quarantines that happen as a result of being considered a close contact,” Hook told News Center 7 Thursday.

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Hook said about 80 to 85 percent of the students at Springboro that have been quarantined due to being a close contact don’t ever develop any symptoms of COVID-19.

“That’s a big number,” Hook said.

The pilot program would allow families to have the following options if an unvaccinated student who is not wearing a mask is identified as a close contact:

  • Traditional quarantine: 10 days at home or return to schools on day 7 with proof of a negative test result on day 5, 6 or 7
  • Mandatory mask quarantine: If a student is symptom free, he/she is allowed to return to school wearing a mask for 10 days.
  • Modified mask and testing quarantine: If a student is symptom free, they are allowed to return to school wearing a mask. On day 5, students will have the option to take a rapid test at school. If the results are negative, they will continue to follow the current mask status for their specific school and grade level.

“This proposed pilot solution will reestablish confidence in our communities. It will demonstrate that our schools continue to work creatively to keep students safe and in school,” the superintendents wrote in the letter.

If early experience with the pilot program is positive, the state may look at expanding it to schools and local health departments who feel this alternative is appropriate for their district and community, Shoults said.

Carlisle schools in Warren County announced it would be closed Thursday and Friday due in part to positive COVID-19 cases and quarantines, as well as other illnesses like colds, flu, strep throat, and allergies. Lebanon schools also closed school buildings through Labor Day due to a surge in cases.

Lebanon reported over 900 students were in quarantine this week and closed all school buildings, with classes set to resume Sept. 7.

Outside of Warren County, Huber Heights City Schools said it has so many students with COVID-19 or quarantined, that the district cannot keep going the way things are right now.

“The caseload has become so overwhelming in grades 9-12 that we cannot sustain operations at Wayne High School; therefore, we will be transitioning Wayne High School students to remote learning for two weeks,” Superintendent Mario Basora said in a letter sent to parents Monday.

District leaders also cited issues with the air conditioning system at the high school in the decision to transition to remote learning. Wayne High School students will return to in-person learning Sept. 15.

Currently statewide, the following ways allow for students and staff to avoid having to quarantine:

  • The student or staff member exposed is fully vaccinated – or—
  • The school requires masks, regardless of vaccination status, and other COVID-19 prevention plans that are followed, including maintaining a distance of 3 feet or more from others – or—
  • The student or staff member exposed must choose to wear a mask, maintain a distance of 3 feet or more from others, and follow COVID-19 prevention methods, regardless of whether or not the school has such prevention plans in place.

There has not been a starting date set for the Warren County pilot program as logistics are still being worked through.

Other districts involved in the pilot would include: Carlisle, Lebanon, Franklin, Wayne Local, Monroe, Clinton Massie, Mason, Kings Local, Lebanon and Little Miami Local. Others who signed the letter included Ohio Board of Education member Walt Davis and the superintendents at Warren County E.S.C. and the Warren County Career Center.