Education

What schools will do if someone has coronavirus symptoms in class

Posted July 14, 2020 10:38 p.m. EDT
Updated July 15, 2020 8:33 a.m. EDT

— Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday said public schools will reopen next month under a ‘Plan B’ model that includes in-person classes and online learning.

Many parents are expressing concern about what would happen if their children or someone else on the school’s campus gets sick.

Parents are in decision mode. Do they send their children back to school or do they continue online learning? The state has laid out detailed safety protocols for every type of scenario. However, some parents are wary and want more answers.

“I think the big one is they start to operate and then they’re in school for a couple of weeks and all of a sudden there’s an outbreak of COVID and then everyone is back into the environment, back online again,” said Diane Dalton, who has a daughter who attends Wake County Public Schools.

State leaders said that won't be the case.

“It doesn’t mean immediately that a school needs to close," said Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen. They may want to go beyond our protocols and do that but again, it depends on the situation.”

In terms of the state guidelines, here's what would happen if a student or staff member was exposed and is not showing symptoms:

  • They’re not allowed to enter school and must immediately go home. They can not use a school bus to leave.
  • The person can return in 14 days if no symptoms develop and a COVID-19 test is negative.
  • They may participate in online learning while they are out.

If a student is showing symptoms, this is what would happen:

  • Immediately isolate in designated areas with supervision.
  • The school must notify a parent/guardian. They can not ride home on a bus once diagnosed.
  • The student can't return until at least 10 days have passed since the first symptoms.
  • If a COVID-19 test is negative, the student may return once there's no fever for at least 24 hours.
  • The student must participate in online learning while they are out.

If there is a case inside a school, the state will begin contact tracing.

“If it was in elementary school, it’s likely that they would have been with the same number of students and teacher throughout the day, and in that case, we’d be doing contact tracing," Cohen said.

While some parents believe this is the best practice, others question how they will be able to regulate an outbreak efficiently with the resources they have.

“The protocol seems reasonable, obviously if children are cohorted so that they are with a smaller group as possible, the most reasonable thing to do is isolate that child and make arrangements for them to go home safely," said Jessica Simo, who has a daughter that attends school.

“I think it’s probably impractical to actually use the plan," said Laura Hilton, a mother of three. "I think it presumes you have staffing to sit in a room all day with a student who is sick. And I think of a kindergartner or first grader, I think that’s a long time.

"I think it presumes that parents are able to come pick up a sick child, and I don’t think that’s always the case.”

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