The Athens City School District, or ACSD, has made updates to its spring COVID-19 policies to stay in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
Thomas Gibbs, ACSD’s superintendent, said the policy changes mostly affect quarantine and isolation protocols, though rules surrounding masking have also become more strict. The CDC recently changed the national recommended isolation and quarantine period from 10 days to five days for those who are not up to date on vaccinations and were exposed to COVID-19.
Although ages 5 to 11 were made eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine in October, this has had very little impact on the district's policies.
Currently in Athens County, there are 766 vaccinated children ages 5 to 11, James Gaskell, health commissioner at the Athens City-County Health Department, said.
The number of cases in the district’s elementary schools tend to be the lowest of all the schools in the district.
As of Monday, there were four active cases and 30 recovered cases of COVID-19 among students at East Elementary School, according to ACSD’s COVID-19 dashboard. Those case numbers are much lower than the number of infections at Athens High School.
One possible reason for the disparity of cases between the two schools is that the 5 to 11 age range is not as likely to contract the virus as those in the higher age groups, Gaskell said. Children in the 5 to 11 age range aren’t as inclined as older students to be in locations where they can get infected, like at parties or restaurants, he said.
Athens High School student cases are the highest in the district, with 10 active and 74 recovering cases.
“We are experiencing a large amount of COVID cases that we have to do the full case investigation for,” Heidi Shaw, ACSD nurse, said in an email.
Although parents within the ACSD are not required to notify the school of their child’s vaccination status, they may self-report if their child is vaccinated to help the school know what actions their child should take if they are exposed to the virus.
The district’s change to stricter COVID-19 policies also takes effect outside of the classroom, including at sporting events.
The school’s previous policy for athletic events was if the crowd was below 50% capacity, fans were allowed to take masks off while seated, Gibbs said. Now, masks are required at all times regardless of capacity.
Some of the guidelines students, regardless of vaccination status, in grades K-12 must follow if they are exposed in school include a requirement to wear a mask, monitor symptoms, isolate and get tested.
Students are expected to carry out those requirements for 10 days after being exposed to the virus. However, testing on day five after exposure is recommended if the student is able.
As the 2022 academic year gets off to a start, the school district's main agenda for the year is to stay within the CDC guidelines and ensure the safety of all students.