The Elk Point-Jefferson School Board approved a revised Close Contact Protocol at its regular meeting Monday, Oct. 12.

The current policy calls for a 10-day isolation period for students who test positive for COVID-19 and a 14-day quarantine for students deemed close contacts. The revised policy has two levels, both of which continue the 10-day isolation period for positive cases. However, level one allows close contacts who were wearing masks at the time of contact to stay in school as long as they are symptom-free. Level two is for students who were not wearing masks at the time of close contact; they must quarantine six days, after which they can return to school if symptom-free. Close contacts would still be able to participate in extra-curricular activities if they are masked.

“This is not taking away the control of the parent,” Superintendent Derek Barrios said. “If the parent wants to hold them out, they have the option to. School administration can still impose the longer quarantine if they feel the case warrants one, but it also does allow us the flexibility to keep students in school.”

The policy still requires students who live in the same home as a positive case to quarantine for 14 days.

“It all comes down to personal responsibility,” Barrios said.

Barrios said the district will soon receive between 1,000-1,400 rapid tests, that can be used to test symptomatic staff or students, with results in 15 minutes. Testing a student needs the parent’s consent. Any staff member will be able to administer the test, garbed in full protective gear. The test is less invasive than the standard coronavirus test because it does not need to go as deep into the nasal passages. Barrios said the tests will help them keep healthy students in school.

“I’ve kind of noticed the school has become more of a healthcare facility this last six months, along with being an educational facility,” he said. “Not only are we doing contract tracing for the department of health, but now we can start testing for the department of health and reporting those test results.”

Barrios said one kindergarten classroom had a positive case and he made the decision to have that classroom go to online learning until Tuesday, Oct. 20. The test kits might help in future situations.

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