The Elk Point-Jefferson School board voted to designate all school employees as critical, according to federal COVID-19 guidlines.

Superintendent Derek Barrios said that will allow personnel who have been exposed to COVID-19 to continue to work, as long as they are asymptomatic and test negative. The staff member will have to wear a mask at all times, and keep a twice-daily temperature and symptom log.

Without such a designation, any staff member who is exposed to anyone testing positive for COVID-19 would have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Within the school confines, that could happen frequently. Barrios is particularly concerned with nursing staff and administration, whose roles would be difficult to fill.He wants to avoid having healthy staff stay home just because of an exposure. He realizes some people might question why he proposed this.

“What’s the perception going to be?” he asked. “[What] I want it to be is, we want our staff here with our students to provide education, that’s what I want the perception to be.”

Barrios offered to give the board more time to look at the policy, but they voted to approve.

The board also finalized the Return to Learn Plan, in time for the first day of school Aug. 24. Masks will be required when travelling on a school bus or school vehicle and for all staff who cannot maintain six feet of social distancing.

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.