Calcasieu schools revise COVID quarantine guidelines

Published 8:33 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Calcasieu Parish School Board has adopted a new, more flexible policy regarding COVID-19 quarantine and isolation. The revised policy was approved in a special-called board meeting on Tuesday based on new guidance released last week by Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent Cade Brumley.

The major policy changes give parents a choice as to whether their child will quarantine if they were in direct contact during the school day with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19. In the case of students who may have close contact with a positive case, Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus said, “The Louisiana Department of Health said before that they had to go home. This would allow them to stay in school if their parent said so.”

Symptomatic students or staff will still be required to isolate.

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Bruchhaus defined isolation as the procedure for people who are experiencing COVID symptoms or have tested positive. Quarantine is for asymptomatic individuals who may have been in close contact with someone infected with COVID.

The new policy will take effect on Oct. 13 and also includes language loosening restrictions for student athletes playing contact sports, including football, volleyball, basketball, cheer and dance. Under the old guidelines, athletes had to sit out of their sport for 14 days.

“Last year our whole football season got shut down,” Damon Hardesty, district nine representative, said.

“One kid tested positive after a Monday practice. Everybody that was in direct contact, which was the whole offensive huddle, 11 of them, had to quarantine for 14 days. Not one of those tested positive or had any symptoms but we killed the whole football season because of that since we were shortened already.”

Under the newly approved guidelines, direct-contact athletes could return to practice and games after only five days with a negative COVID-19 test result.

Skylar Fontenot, risk manager, said despite having to send 300 students home in closed pre-k and special education classrooms this semester, “We’re not having a lot of positivity from those closures.” The data suggests there’s been been a “very limited number” of actual positive cases, she said.

Under the new policy Bruchhaus still retains the right to close a classroom if positivity trends in the wrong direction. “I live and die by numbers,” Fontenot said.

“If we watch it close enough and we have a spike, basically we would enact a class closure. To me, this is my best concession if you said it (the policy) had to go anywhere.”

While the local board unanimously approved the new policy, Bruchhaus presented the option with the caveat that there is still much disagreement between LDOE, the Louisiana Health Department, the governor’s office and the Louisiana Board of Secondary and Elementary Education on the change.

“Friday the Department of Health came out with a letter basically saying that it might not be wise, going back to their stance all along,” he said. “Through all of this, basically, they leave us kind of teetering as to what to do. We’ve always tried to find that balance between keeping the students in school and safety; and I think this is no different.”