Frederick Co. schools loosen quarantine rules, require vaccine or testing for sports

Starting Monday, Frederick County Public Schools in Maryland will have a new policy regarding who has to quarantine in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the disruption to students.

So far, only about 2% of students who have been required to quarantine have tested positive, Superintendent Terry Alban told the board of education on Wednesday.

Unlike last year, where students have had access to classroom activities online, quarantined students this year have largely done their work at home by themselves.

The Frederick County board voted Wednesday to alter the conditions by which a person has to quarantine if they have spent 15 minutes near a person who is confirmed to have coronavirus.

“A student is not going to have to quarantine if they are a close contact and masked — we are only going to call close contacts if students were unmasked,” Alban said.

The only times students are allowed to remove their masks are during lunch and recess.

Alban said schools have been alerting parents about confirmed COVID cases.

“We would continue, if there’s ever a positive case in a classroom, to let all families know that there was a positive case in a classroom,” Alban said. “We are going to continue to tell families if your child has symptoms, don’t send them to school — have them evaluated.”

In addition, the board voted to require students who participate in extracurricular activities to either get vaccinated or take weekly COVID tests by Dec. 6, when the winter sports season begins.

The requirement comes with the recommendation of the school district’s Return to Play Committee — a group of school and health officials offering guidance on navigating the pandemic.

The panel said students involved in extracurricular activities, including sports, as well as band and drama activities, spend large amounts of time in proximity, unmasked, putting them at increased risk of spreading the virus.

Some board members expressed concern about having different requirements for students, depending upon their activities. Ultimately the vaccination or testing requirement passed, 4-3.

So far in the 2021 school year, 647 students and 92 staff members have tested positive for COVID.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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