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BOE meets to grapple with COVID guidelines


Staff Writer

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Masks, quarantine and vaccines. Oh my! These were the topics of the latest Board of Education meeting in Washington County.

“You shouldn’t quarantine healthy kids,” local resident Justin Southerland said. “Masks don’t work. We need in-person instruction.”

The meeting room of the Washington County Department of Education was open to concerned parents, as well as staff and educators for the district.

“I am a father of four, three are in Washington County schools,” community member Luke Holt said. “I encourage the board to expand the current mask mandate. I want to keep my kids in school; it is the best way to learn.”

The board also addressed their concerns and plans for COVID protocols within the school system.

“I believe we have to follow the Department of Health protocol,” Washington County Superintendent Jerry Boyd said. “We need to review and clarify exemptions, such as exempt from quarantine if vaccinated with no symptoms. Or if a positive case had a mask, only the positive case goes home. The most concern is the ratio of those that appear healthy.”

The use of contact tracing is also another alternative when determining who should be exempt.

“I feel we need to do whatever we have to in order to keep kids in school,” Vice-Chairman Mike

Masters said. “If they have a mask and have no symptoms, they should come to school. This means students and staff. If they are masked, they won’t get quarantined unless they have symptoms.”

There were, however, countering arguments against this suggestion.

“There is no way to social distance, but the mask is a layer of protection,” Board Member Whitney Riddle said. “There has to be something we can do to keep kids in school.”

The school system is also not requiring checks currently.

“There is a value to being vaccinated,” Coordinated School Health Director Kelly Wagner said.

In addition to masks, sick time for teachers that have been affected by COVID was discussed.

“I believe full-time staff should get an additional five day sick leave,” Board Member Chad Fleenor said, with Board Member Mary Beth Dellinger agreeing, “That is a good start, and if necessary, add more.”

This would potentially also cover full isolation or quarantine.

“They can then return after the eighth day if they are tested by the fifth day,” Boyd said. “If they are quarantining at home, we will have support guidelines. If we need to quarantine the whole classroom, we will have a waiver.”

Fleenor moved to table the discussion to workshop at a postponed meeting for September 24.