By Erica Thomas, managing editor
TRUSSVILLE – Trussville City Schools released a reopening plan on Monday and followed up to questions from parents on Tuesday. The plan is for actions that will be taken to keep students in the classroom as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact society.
The school system said it is a top priority to continue in-school instruction in order for students to get the most out of social, emotional and academic education.
In a newsletter Monday, the system said it will follow guidelines from the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Toolkit. The toolkit recommends universal masking of all students and social distancing of at least three feet. However, in the newsletter, TCS stated that there will be activities during the school day where wearing a mask will not be needed.
Times masks are needed will include group activities indoors where students are within three feet. When asked about specifics on masking and social distancing, Superintendent Dr. Pattie Neill replied to a parent saying students will be masked in the classroom and will also be distanced three feet apart. However, TCS Public Relations Supervisor Jason Gaston said masks will only be required in the classroom if students are within three feet of each other.
“Basically three feet or closer: masks (indoors),” Gaston texted The Tribune. “Masks will help prevent quarantines (CDC). Students or employees who want to wear masks at any time can do so, socially distanced or not.”
Tuesday, TCS released a FAQ page. One of the questions was, “When do students wear masks and when do they not wear masks?” The following was the answer provided by the school system:
Students will wear masks during school bus transport, in class settings where they are within three to six feet of others, and when in close contact group settings. Students do not need to wear masks in uncrowded hallways, outdoors, in cafeterias, or any other time where social distancing can be achieved.
TCS employees will wear masks indoors, according to the newsletter, if they are within three feet of others.
Bus passengers and drivers must also wear a mask at all times.
Times masks are not needed, according to the TCS newsletter, include when maximum physical distancing is available, when eating or drinking, and during outdoor activities.
Parents are asked to ensure their child has a mask every day and wears it as instructed by their teacher or principal.
TCS also added masks to the school supply list.
There are changes to the way the school system will handle quarantines and exposures. As always, parents are asked to keep their children home if they are sick. There will not be any changes to the absentee policy concerning COVID-19-related absences. If a child has been exposed to COVID-19 and has worn a mask in school and has been socially distanced, the school system will not require that student to be quarantined. If they have not worn a mask, they will be quarantined for 14 days. Vaccinated and asymptomatic students will also be exempt from quarantine in the case of an exposure. Students that have tested positive for COVID-19 within three months may also be exempt, if they do not have symptoms.
TCS will not allow visitors in schools and one-way foot traffic will be put in place for all schools. The school system will keep plexiglass shields in place and will have portable desk shields available.
Other frequently asked questions and answers were:
Q: How is a close contact defined?
A “close contact” is defined by the CDC as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). [ADPH Toolkit page 3]
Q: What are the quarantine exemptions?
Asymptomatic vaccinated close contacts do not need to be sent home but should monitor for
symptoms, and isolate if symptoms develop. (Page 3)
• Asymptomatic close contacts who have tested positive for and recovered from COVID-19 in the prior 3 months do not need to be sent home unless they develop symptoms.
• Asymptomatic close contacts who meet the K-12 indoor classroom student exclusion noted in the previous section do not need to be sent home unless they develop symptoms.
• Unvaccinated individuals who are identified as a close contact and do not meet the K-12 indoor classroom student criteria above must be sent home. School officials should share an exposure letter with staff and parents of students.
Q: Will students who are exposed be excluded from school and extracurricular activities?
Not necessarily. It depends on the guidance in the ADPH exposure letter on page 17 of the Toolkit.
Q: If my child wears a mask to school every day, will he/she/they be automatically exempt from having to quarantine for close contact exposure?
Masks reduce the need to quarantine in most cases. See page 3 of the Toolkit.
Q: If the school calls and informs me my child is a close contact, what should I do?
The exposure letter (Toolkit page 15) will be sent home via email to the parent.
Q: What if my child had COVID right before school started? Do we need to present a negative COVID test result?
As long as isolation days have been completed, your child may return to school without a negative COVID test. In addition, your child will be exempt from quarantine for 90 days.
Q: How are TCS campuses and facilities ventilated?
Our buildings are properly ventilated with air circulated from the outdoors. Air quality is regularly monitored.
Q: Who does contact tracing and quarantining?
Health departments are responsible for contact tracing and quarantining.
Q: What if the parent of a student is positive and/or a child was exposed outside of school. Who does the parent notify and what is the school response?
We encourage any households with positive cases to notify the school office immediately and follow the ADPH Toolkit guidelines. The school’s attendance clerk will code the absence as COVID related.
You can submit any questions you may have via this Google Form.