Barrington schools veer from state, CDC protocols

Quarantine time for Barrington students is twice as long

Posted 1/9/22

Barrington schools will follow some of the new protocols and procedures set by the Rhode Island Department of Health and the CDC, but not all of them.

The Rhode Island Department of Education …

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Barrington schools veer from state, CDC protocols

Quarantine time for Barrington students is twice as long

Posted

Barrington schools will follow some of the new protocols and procedures set by the Rhode Island Department of Health and the CDC, but not all of them.

The Rhode Island Department of Education announced a series of changes to their Covid-19 protocols late last week, including a shorter quarantine time for students who test positive.

On Saturday, Jan. 8, Barrington schools sent an email to local families, stating that the district was not incorporating all of the changes.

“Although BPS is adopting some of the recommendations as presented, we have also decided to revise some of the proposals to align with the current upward trend in positive cases,” wrote Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore. He added that school officials will revisit the protocols when cases decrease.

The state’s new quarantine protocol calls for anyone who tests positive, regardless of their vaccination status, to stay home and isolate for at least five days. 

“They may return to school on day 6, if they don’t have symptoms or their symptoms are improving, and they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours, or isolate at home until their symptoms are improving and they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours,” stated an email from RIDE.

That’s different than the procedure for Barrington schools. 

In Barrington, students who test positive for Covid must quarantine for 10 days, and can return to school on day 11 if they don’t have symptoms or if their symptoms are improving and “close to the baseline.”

Barrington schools will also adhere to the following protocols:

• Implement the Test to Stay quarantine program for those students and staff who aren’t exempt from quarantine to maximize in-person learning; 

• Waive the requirement for a negative PCR test result for asymptomatic students and staff who are close contacts and meet the vaccination criteria … An in-school antigen or PCR will be accepted;

• Waive the requirement for a positive test for the symptomatic individuals living with a person who has tested positive for COVID to be eligible for Zoom. 

State comments

Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee said his administration has been committed to keeping students in the classroom “where they are safest and where they learn best…”

Regarding the decision to adhere to the reduce quarantine times statewide, Gov. McKee said: “We’re following the CDC and making changes to our school guidance that uses the existing capacities in schools, while prioritizing approaches based on data and the evolving surge in cases.”

Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH said the new state guidance for schools aligns with the latest recommendations from national health experts at the CDC.

“We know our kids learn best in school. It is critical that we minimize disruptions to school communities, while doing everything we can to limit transmission of COVID-19,” she said. 

RIDE Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said RIDE has heard from families across the state that want their children in school.

“These new guidelines will ensure students benefit from the academic and social-emotional supports of in-person learning while protecting their health and safety,” she said.

Recent spike

Barrington schools are experiencing a recent spike in new positive cases. Barrington High School Principal Joe Hurley sent a letter to the school community on Friday, Jan. 7 stating that 109 students and nine staff members had tested positive last week. (The high school moved to distance learning on Wednesday, citing a shortage in staff due to an increase in positive cases.) 

The increase in positive cases was similar at Hampden Meadows School, which caters to students in fourth and fifth grades. For the week ending Jan. 7, 29 students and six faculty members at Hampden Meadows had tested positive.

The recent spike is occurring despite the district’s high vaccination rates for students and staff.

Barrington schools have some of the highest vaccination rates for students in the state; at the high school nearly 90 percent of the students have received two vaccine doses. 

“Although the positive case rate in Barrington Schools is currently averaging 10% of the school population, it is essential to note that this spike occurred during vacation,” Mr. Messore wrote. “There were 45 cases in our schools for December from 12/1 through 12/22. Since 12/22, we have had 235 cases associated with contact at home and during vacation. We contend that schools are the safest place for our students with solid mitigation strategies. As such, we will strive to be in-person to the extent practicable.”

The Barrington School Committee has also mandated that all district employees be vaccinated. Three unvaccinated teachers were fired late last year after the committee voted to deny their requests for religious exemptions to the mandate. 

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