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School districts vary on quarantine policy for students exposed to COVID-19

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - Schools across Eastern Iowa are one week in, and already seeing positive COVID-19 cases, but decisions on who should quarantine after a positive case in schools vary among districts.

For Richard Squires, a parent in the Linn-Mar School District, COVID-19 is a major concern.

“I am one of those people who are immuno-compromised. And I have a young daughter who is not vaccinated yet, so we’re hoping to avoid COVID in our house,” Squires said.

Squires took his seventh-grade son out of class at Oak Ridge Middle School to quarantine just three days into the school year, after he says he got an email from staff notifying him his son was in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case. But, Squires didn’t have to keep his son home.

Linn Mar’s policy leaves it up to parents to decide to quarantine if they’re near a sick person at school. Dubuque, College Community, and Cedar Rapids Community school districts have similar policies. They align with the state’s Department of Public Health, but not the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Iowa City’s policy is in alignment with the CDC. It requires all individuals exposed to a positive case to quarantine for 14 days if they’re not vaccinated, unless they’re masked.

Of the 32 schools in the Cedar Rapids District, there are COVID-19 cases at 13 of them. And now Linn County Public Health is urging schools to stick with CDC recommendations. That would mean 14 days of quarantine for the unvaccinated with a close contact. The quarantine can be shortened with a negative test result, and no quarantine is necessary if all parties were wearing masks properly. Vaccinated people don’t have to quarantine but should get tested three to five days after exposure.

Squires said he’d like all parents to be notified of a positive case in a school, to help parents make a decision on whether or not to keep students home, saying

“Since the state has offloaded responsibility to parents to advise their students whether or not to wear masks, I feel like they should be providing parents with full information.”

In a statement to KCRG-TV9, Linn-Mar Superintendent Shannon Bisgard wrote: “Providing the safest environment possible for our students and staff is paramount at Linn-Mar. Linn County Public Health provides quarantine guidance for each Covid case in our district. We follow that guidance in conjunction with policies set forth by the Iowa Department of Public Health.”

TV9 reached out to the Iowa Department of Public Health for clarification on its guidelines for quarantine guidance for schools and has not received a response by the time this article was published.

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