By ROD ZOOK
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Because of the large number of quarantines involving USD 308 students and staff, the Hutchinson School Board made changes to its COVID policies during Monday’s meeting.
“We’ve had about 400 quarantines so far this school year,” Superintendent Mike Folks said. “With the mask mandate and with the goal and priority of keeping kids in school and keeping everyone safe, it (quarantines) would be disruptive to our educational environment.”
Folks says those numbers and the challenges facing both students and parents with the continuous disruptions in school necessitated the change. Under the new policy, if a student is exposed at school, parents will have some say in whether their child goes to class or not.
“I’ve visited with a lot of medical people and also the Kansas State Department of Education and the Kansas Association of School Boards and felt like the board had local control to give parents an option,” Folks said. “If they want to quarantine, we’ll let them work with the Reno County Health Department.”
What that means is, if a parent wants to send their child to school, making sure they are symptom free and wearing a mask, the student can attend class. If the exposure happens outside the school, such as at home, then parents must work with the health department and quarantine the student.
Folks says that doing testing of students and staff is not a viable option because of the large school population. Folks also said that the positive test rate for the district is low.
“We’re not doing test-to-stay because we’ve got 5,000 students and staff and the large districts that have tried to do test-and-stay have really had logistical challenges,” Folks said. “What I can tell you is that we've had about 80 positives (COVID cases) for students and staff since the beginning of the year, but we’ve had 400 quarantines.” That means less than 2% of the students and staff are known to have had, or currently have, COVID.
The matter was a last-minute addition to the school board meeting on Monday night. A complete copy of the current policy is available at usd308.com.