Burlington Public Schools administrators informed the School Committee on Tuesday about new COVID-19 protocols issued from the state that change how cases are traced and testing is done.
Superintendent Eric Conti and Assistant Superintendent Patrick Larkin said that in accordance with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Department of Public Health (DPH), the district is updating the COVID-19 guidelines with changes that began on Monday.
This guidance states “there is no longer the expectation that close contacts will be identified, and therefore, any potential contacts do not need to quarantine. Instead, schools should shift their focus to monitoring symptomatic individuals.”
In a memo sent to schools last week from Commissioner of Education Jeffrey C. Riley and the Acting Commissioner of Public Health, Margaret R. Cooke they stated:
“These data show that transmission from close contacts is a rare occurrence in schools and that, therefore, extensive contact tracing and associated Test and Stay procedures are not adding significant value as a mitigation strategy despite the demand they place on the time of school health staff and school staff at large. As a result, we are recommending that school health personnel increase their focus on identifying symptomatic individuals, rather than monitoring in-school close contacts who are unlikely to contract or spread the virus.”
Conti and Larkin said that as a result of this new guidance, the district is transitioning to an opt-in, at-home testing program where anyone who wants to participate can receive two tests for each student for every two weeks. Families are asked to test their children on Monday morning and, if they are positive, to keep them home for the week. If the tests are negative parents can send their kids to school like normal without any need to contact the administration to report the results.
As part of this shift, the school department will no longer conduct contract tracing when there is a positive in a classroom. They will also stop the Test and Stay program that was putting a burden on the nursing staff. Larkin said he thought this was a good sign and also is in line with what many parents had been requesting.
“I”m optimistic,” he said. “I hope this means we are kind of getting back to the way things were before the pandemic.”
Superintendent Conti pointed out that these guidelines are for in-school and after school close contacts only. If a child is determined to be a close contact out of school then CDC guidelines should be followed.
“According to the CDC, unvaccinated children will still need to quarantine for five days if there is a positive in their home,” Conti said.