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Menomonie School Board changes COVID-19 plan regarding quarantine duration

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 9:51 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - To quarantine, mask up, or distance, the School District of the Menomonie Area acknowledged they needed to make a change to their COVID-19 plan. That seemed to be one of the few things they could agree on during Monday night’s school board meeting.

Eventually a decision was made, a motion approved 5-3 would shorten the quarantine time for students deemed as close contacts and even to make it optional in some cases.

A growing number of kids are being kept from the classrooms in Menomonie due to the contact tracing policy.

“We have 40 cases since September 1st and we are up to 1,086 student exclusions and what’s concerning is the number of exclusions is sky rocketing,” said superintendent Joe Zydowsky.

In an effort to reverse that trend, a change to the policy was proposed. Mandating less quarantine time for most students.

The meeting where that would be discussed was moved to the high school auditorium as more people were expected to attend, wanting their voices heard.

“I want to try to convince you guys that we maybe need to mask up these elementary school kids ... they are vulnerable and if they are not at school and they’re home alone or if their parents cant go to work our town could really suffer”,” a teacher said.

“Because you didn’t follow the recommendations from the health department ... my daughter who has down syndrome is unable to go to school,” said one parent.

“I think I speak for everyone here when I say this is exhausting I’d like to see the board come up with a more durable solution so we don’t end up right back here,” another parent said.

After parents, teachers, and community members voiced their concerns, the discussion went to the board. Should the district change policy to abbreviate the quarantine times for close contacts from 14 days to 7?

“It should be a parent decision if a child is not symptomatic or sick they should be in school learning,” said one board member.

“There is no understanding of how taking quarantine off the table, how it will protect our students which is our number one priority as a board,” another member said.

“I’m concerned right now we are so focused on being right there is no discussion going on about collaboration,” said a board member.

The decision is made; close contacts can return on day eight of quarantine with a negative test taken on day six or seven, or after 10 days with no test if the student is asymptomatic.

Also, families can make their own decision now on whether to have their kids quarantine if they’re deemed a close contact. However, kids must still quarantine if there’s an exposure in their household.

“The school district will still contact trace notify close contacts but only household close contacts would be required at least from the school the other quarantines would still be the families option,” said Zydowsky.

He says his first choice to solve this disaster continues to be universal masking.

According to the superintendent during Monday’s meeting, the health department has made it very clear, a written legal order will be coming to the district if they do not follow the recommendation to quarantine students. If the board choses to not follow that order, Zydowsky says there could be legal liabilities to deal with.

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