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Should Park City school quarantines be shortened?

Today I received an email from the Park City School District asking whether quarantines should be shortened. Currently, if your kid (or a teacher) is in close proximity to a person who has tested positive for Covid-19, then they can’t return to school for 14 days. According to the school district, there are about 200 students at PCHS who are in quarantine.

According to the email from the district, “The Summit County Health Department (SCHD) has stated, at this time, it is appropriate for school districts in Summit County to consider moving to a shortened quarantine if COVID-19 cases are not prevalent or increasing in the district.” So, likely due to pressure from parents, the district is asking whether the public wants the quarantine shortened.

To me, this question seems political in nature. If Rich Bullough at the Sumit County Health Department says its Ok, then do it. If not, then don’t. Trust the science. Put it on the Summit County Health Department to stake their reputation on it. Don’t send a survey.

But, since the school district seems to want to go down the Survey Monkey route, I’ll go there. Let’s think about whether we should allow students to return to school, after seven days, if they take a Covid-19 test, and it is negative.

I get it. Imagine your kid’s been in contact with someone who tested positive for the CoronaVirus, your child shows no symptoms, and she has to stay home. It has to be frustrating.

The district is proposing that if after 7 days, your quarantined-kid tests negative for the virus, then they can come back to school. At face value, it makes sense to me. They tested negative, so why not let them back in. Trust me, I would be preaching from that hymnal if/when my kid comes down with this. However, there are three problems, no matter how much I want to want this.

  1. The CDC still says that it can take up to 14 days for the virus to be detectable. I tried to find research that says if someone was infected, you were in close proximity to them, and then you tested negative after 7 days, everything was fine. I couldn’t. If you, the intrepid Park Rag reader, can point me to a study saying 7 days is cool, then that may make me think this is an OK idea.
  2. Summit County still requires a quarantine of 14 days across the board. I have not seen a rule change on this. Therefore, if you work in a restaurant, and are in the same predicament, why should a kid be able to go to school and you can’t go to work. It doesn’t make sense. It needs to be aligned. It needs to be concrete. If a student can go back after seven days, everyone can go back after seven days (with the appropriate test).
  3. I, as a middle-class Parkite, whose wife works in the medical industry, will be able to get this “7-day” test through insurance or we’ll be able to afford it. Can everyone? If someone is not as fortunate as me, is the health department (or school district) guaranteeing a free test for re-admittance to school? If not, is it fair that kids with more money can go back to school and the less fortunate can’t? No, it is not. It has to be equitable.

Fourteen days is a long time off of school. That not only hurts the student but also his or her family that may have to take off work to take care of them. So, an approach that shortens that time makes sense. However, that approach needs to be universal to everyone in our community (not just students). It needs to be backed by scientific research saying that a test after seven days guarantees the student doesn’t have the virus. It also needs to be available for free to all students and all individuals who work in our community.

Perhaps, all of those things are in place and the research backs this up. Great. Let’s go for it.

If not, this idea is a non-starter.

If you want to participate, here is a link to the survey. If you received the survey via email, keep in mind that the link they sent you has an email tracker in it. So, while I’m not certain of it, it is likely someone at the district would know how you voted. So, be careful out there. The link above has that removed and therefore, the vote won’t be associated with your email address.

Comments

11 Comments

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Vicky Fitlow

As I read the proposal, this 7 day negative test rule would apply only where the person who tested positive and the person considered exposed were both wearing masks at time of exposure.

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Parkrag

Hi Vicky-

Thanks for clarifying that. I reread it and agree with your assesment. That said, I can’t see a place where students who were in contact with another student or teacher for 10-15 minutes, within 6 feet, wouldn’t be wearing a mask (at least indoors). Maybe sports?

Also, I haven’t seen any research/guidelines which say that if a peson comes into contact with a person with Covid-19 and both are wearing a mask, 7 days makes a difference. On one hand one could say that there should be no quarantine if masks were being worn (if masks were near 100% effective). On the other hand, why does a mask shave 7 days off the requirement? Maybe less risk?

Anyhow, you bring up a good point for discussion.

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M Leaf

I would stay the course with 14-days for quarantine and stop muddying the waters. Going with the most conservative option makes sense and keeps it plain and simple until it’s over.

The real problem is that PCSD did not adequately plan for online learning, so quarantining doesn’t work well.
Teachers and students are stuck with every teacher managing his/her own students,
– some relying solely on Canvas (which earned an F at the Better Business Bureau and which still has issues with the Submit button)
-some relying on live stream video in class,
-some using Zoom meetings,
-some using Google Meets, and
-some posting ad hoc videos on Canvas.

Technology was not beefed up, not made consistent throughout, and not made easier for staff and students from last March on. Training on how to stream or make videos was not completed.

It leaves us all with a sloppy mess while teachers have less time to manage two sets of students per class. BTW, when I asked Jill Gildea last Aug if teachers’ workloads would increase given online and in person options and would they have the support they needed, I was told their workloads would remain about the same as usual with maybe a slight increase, but that all teachers had the support they needed.

Think of Ecker Hill, Treasure, and the High School teachers who manage 7-8 classes per day.

Topping that, PCSD district office has no communication strategy nor anyone dedicated to communicate with parents, students, and community. Heck, teachers are scarcely informed of new positive cases and quarantines impacting their own classes and schools! Comm is absent unless you write a very specific email to Jill Gildea or Lorie Pearce.

Schools are to give their Covid numbers to the district office only–not to parents. The district office is supposed to communicate that information outward to parents and community. But they don’t, thus the round robin confusion about ‘how many cases are there REALLY at my school?’ and ‘what’s the real scoop if I want to send my kids back to school?’

Compete the survey, don’t complete the survey…the district will do whatever they want to do in the end. Feedback hardly matters.

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a

Sorry if this sounds like a nitpick but what are you suggesting we infer from Canvas having an F with the Better Business Bureau?

I just looked it up and Instructure, Inc. (the company the develops and hosts Canvas) has an F simply because “This business is not BBB accredited,” with 0 reviews.

I’m not super familiar with the BBB; if I started a business today, would I automatically have an F since I wouldn’t yet have accreditation? That seems like a silly reason to criticize Canvas.

I’m a PCHS teacher, and my impression has been that while livestreaming and other tech has been an absolute mess, Canvas has been the one thing that students can fall back on as a reliable way to know what they need to do in their class.

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M Leaf

Canvas is clunky and the Submit button is unreliable, which does impact grades negatively and creates the need for additional back and forth communication between parent, student, and teacher. Instructure does not respond to IT correction or enhancement requests and as policy will not discuss software issues with teachers, parents, or students. There is no consistency between pages. Every teacher has a different style, so formats are inconsistent, and kids must look hard for messages. Some teachers use Canvas messaging and others use email, creating the need for students to look everywhere in case they missed something. And sometimes they miss something and are dinged for it. The GUI for Canvas could stand much improvement but Instructure does not appear to have touched it for years.

I get that teachers rely heavily on Canvas. They don’t have much of a choice and probably never were asked to review and test possible software packages for this district.

Finally, thank you, teachers, for you are the glue and the fabric that is education. You are among the best people on planet earth for your commitment to education. 🙂

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A PCHS parent and PCSD employee

How about starting by asking the teachers how they feel about the current quarantine guidelines? The email that I received indicated that the PC School Board, not PCSD, had been asked to consider a request to evaluate the quarantine restrictions. Seems worth considering if the school board/PCSD would be seeking this feedback if it wasn’t an election year?

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Siobhan Harrington

Also I think it’s important to note that the tests are only ~80% accurate- depending on which test you take. I wish that had been mentioned in the letter sent to parents.

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Max Mendel

If Canvas truly is a defensible, quarter- long substitute for in-person classes, then it is hard to argue it is NOT a defensible interim solution for those in a two week quarantine. QED!

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Anonymous

Just want to comment to M Leaf- I watched the school board mtg when Gildea presented her plan. Her plan was that at TMJH and PCHS- the teachers would NOT be teaching the remote students. Her plan stated that students that chose to be remote would take classes on Edgenuity and Utah Students Connect ONLY. It did not take a genius to figure out that that wouldn’t work- the classes offered on those platforms are very limited. How would students take AP? Honors? Any non-general course?

Upper Class Teachers were told around two days before school started that actually they would be teaching remote and in class students at the same time in the same sections.

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anonymous

The survey email also stated that “to date, students who have been placed on quarantine due to classroom exposure have not contracted the contagious illness from classroom contact” which indicates that mask wearing in the school setting where it’s consistently enforced is apparently working.

I think it’s important to remember that parents who elected in person school have inherently assumed some level of potential covid exposure but have arrived at the conclusion that for their student and family, the benefit of having the student in a school building outweighs this risk. If a family is uncomfortable with this risk, they can elect on-line learning. I have two students who have already been quarantined, tested negative, are still symptom free, and still under school quarantine.

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Anonymous

To Anonymous, I’ve no doubt Gildea said that. I did participate in both the Board and PCEF meetings with Gildea prior to the reopen. I asked important questions addressing preoarations. I never did receive results from the five covid committees that met over the summer. Gildea hasn’t addressed that at all.

As schools reopened, limited messaging from district office and individual schools were out of sync, and in some cases, contradictory relative to online learning. That’s how our family got stuck in the crosshairs of misleading information and ended up making the wrong choice.

Teachers seemed predominantly blind-sided by Board and Superintendent expectations. I can’t fathom why teachers weren’t kept in the loop and in the planning all along, since last Spring, but as a whole, they weren’t.

It’s obvious there was very little coherent, comprehensive prep before opening schools. Teachers have my respect. They keep taking it, working through poor communication and lacking good leadership, and staying committed to education.

The only hope I have is that some day teachers are in the driver’s seat, paid well, and the rest, paid less, can support them in meeting the education needs in every student group and for every student. Top-down is not the right model for education. It’s a taxpayer money-grab. It doesn’t serve the students and teachers as they should be served.


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