The Waterloo School Board approved two additions to the district’s COVID-19 protocol and procedure plan at its Monday night meeting.
First, the board voted to make quarantine optional for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students. Once the school contacts the family to let them know their child has been a close contact, the family then decides whether or not to quarantine their child.
This will only apply if that child is symptom free. If the child is symptomatic or has tested positive for COVID-19, then he or she is required to stay home. The plan passed 4-3, with Karen Stangler, Debra Stein, Charles Crave and Matt Schneider voting in favor of the addition.
The second addition was a household contact quarantine plan. If a child is a close contact in school, they should quarantine around the day they were in contact with that case. If a child is a household contact, they must wait out their family member’s quarantine time and then must take their own additional quarantine period afterwards. The addition passed 6-1 with Stangler, Stein, Nancy Thompson, Kate Lewandowski, Crave and Schneider voting in favor of the addition.
District Superintendent Brian Henning made note of the difficulty of contact tracing before the board voted on the two additions.
Within the first two weeks of school, there have been numerous factors that keep the district from accurately tracing cases: parents have sent their kids to school knowing they may have COVID-19; families have had doctors write kids notes saying they don’t need to quarantine; parents refuse to pick their child up from school to quarantine; parents refuse to answer the phone because they don’t want the school to tell them their kid must quarantine.
Essentially, Henning explained district staff cannot keep up with contact tracing because of the staff shortage.
“We are seeing staffing shortages to an extreme amount that we have never seen before,” Henning said. “This whole thing has become impossible for us to manage as a school district.”
Every staff member available in each school is watching recesses, passing periods and lunch times in order to watch the students. The board didn’t take any action or discuss the idea of adding staff to help the district. That topic may come up in a future meeting.
“I think the school district’s in a bind, because if you can’t get parents to keep their kids home and they’re sending them to school sick, I don’t know what policy to put in place to make them change that,” board member Jim Setz said. “Point is, is that parents either have to step up and start taking care of their kids or it’s not going to happen anyway no matter what you put in place.”
In other news, the board approved potential overnight trips for the next four school years. The trips are planned out years in advanced for fundraising purposes. The approved overnight trips, which would be to Europe, Costa Rica and states all over the U.S., are not set in stone. The vote was 6-1 with Lewandowski voting no.
“We will monitor and communicate with the families and students and staff if things change,” high school Principal Shawn Bartelt said. “We absolutely will adjust.”