Monroe County Schools updated its COVID protocols at a called meeting on Jan. 6, the day students returned to classes after the Christmas break. The guidelines are little changed from those distributed on Oct. 21. It is still recommended that staff and students wear masks in school settings, get vaccinated and social distance. There will be contact tracing to inform parents if students have been exposed so they may quarantine, and visitors and volunteers will be allowed in schools with masking recommended.

Guidelines for students and staff who test positive for COVID or who choose to quarantine because of exposure were included with the protocols approved for the current school session. Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman said the main change is that days of isolation after a positive test have been reduced from 10 to five days and Rapid/At Home tests are now accepted per CDC guidelines. Students/staff may choose to isolate or quarantine for a full 10 days. They shouldn’t return to school while they have a fever. Quarantines won’t be mandatory unless the person lives in the same household with someone testing positive and is unvaccinated or 90 days past receiving a final dose. 

Board member Greg Head noted that guidelines for contract tracing in the school setting have changed from exposure for 15 minutes within 6 feet to within 3 feet. Board member Dr. Jeremy Goodwin agreed, and after the change in recommendation was confirmed on-line, it was added to Monroe County Schools updated protocol.

Hickman said the school system will work with Monroe County Health Department to make vaccines available for staff and students 5 years and older with parents’ permission. 

Hickman said he has updated Monroe County School System’s spread sheet report on positive tests for staff and students, beginning a new running count with the start of 2022. As of Jan. 6, there were six student cases, two at Mary Persons, two at Monroe County Middle School and one each at T.G. Scott Elementary and K.B. Sutton Elementary. As of Jan. 6 there were 20 staff cases, three at Mary Persons, two at Monroe County Middle School, one at Hubbard Elementary, two at T.G. Scott Elementary, two at K.B. Sutton Elementary, one at Monroe County Achievement Center, six in the Transportation department and three at Central Office.

“Our big hit is at Transportation,” said Hickman. “We were at nothing at Christmas. We’re working hard to cover for the bus drivers.”

Hickman said that many of the bus drivers are older than the average school system employee and more at risk. The school system wants to protect them as much as possible.

Goodwin, who has a medical practice in Forsyth, said the current predominant variety of COVID is more contagious, spreading quickly in closed settings, but is generally milder. He said the quicker turnaround in people getting well should help the school system. He said Monroe County Hospital went from no COVID cases to six overnight, primarily unvaccinated individuals.

In other business, after an 18-minute closed door session, board members unanimously voted to accept the resignation of Mary Persons band director Miles Benson, who was charged on Dec. 30 with sexual assault against a person under his care, electronic pornography and child exploitation. The resignation was effective Jan. 6.