SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It will be all-hands-on-deck this year as students get ready to head back into the classroom.
Springfield Public Schools (SPS) saw a surge in cases during its first session of the Explore Summer Program.
“It was scary. I’m not going to lie,” School Nurse Katie Conner said. “Those are our kids, and we want to take care of them and keep them healthy and safe.”
The district decided on July 6 to re-implement masks for the second session of Explore.
“It started out as little symptoms,” Conner said. “Headaches, runny nose. It would just build upon more and more. In June, there was more sore throats and more parents calling in saying ‘hey my kids got a stomachache, diarrhea, fevers.’ Just more symptoms than what we saw all year long.”
In the return-to-learn plan, students are required to monitor their symptoms before they go to school. School nurses will help with monitoring students’ symptoms throughout the day as well.
SPS added 12 nurses for the entire district last year to help combat the pandemic. High schools, K-8 schools, and most Middle schools have two full-time nurses.
Some elementary schools are getting additional nurses as well.
The Study Alternative Center will serve as a centralized testing site. Depending on the case rates, the district said it will re-evaluate if it needs more testing sites.
Quarantine guidelines were updated to match the CDC guidelines. Those who have tested positive can end quarantine after ten days if they are no longer showing symptoms.
“We now have the option if someone is a direct contact and are not exhibiting any symptoms can get out of quarantine early,” SPS Director of Health Services Jean Grabeel said. “They can test on day 5, 6, or 7 and return to school or activities on day 8 as long as they test negative and not symptomatic. Those who are fully vaccinated and are exposed to someone who is positive they do not have to quarantine unless they start having symptoms.”
Regarding masks, there is no telling right now when staff and students won’t have to wear them.
“It’s not just we’re going to wait three weeks and make a determination,” Grabeel said. “We’re going to be watching those cases both within the community and as well as when school begins. We’re going to be looking at the number of cases we have, what’s the community rate looking like, what’ the vaccination rate looking like too, So it will be a constant review.”
SPS is conducting contact tracing in consultation with the Springfield Greene County Health Department. The district is hopeful this will help keep kids in the classroom.
“Having that immediate response of being able to get the message very quickly about who is in direct contact of that individual who is positive and get those folks quarantined quickly helps slow the spread.”
SPS is encouraging those eligible to get vaccinated to do so before the start of the school year.