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Durango School District 9-R adapts new COVID-19 procedures based on updated public health guidance

School district determined to keep children in the classroom
Durango School District 9-R announced Friday that it will no longer notify families of low-risk exposures, instead focusing on high-risk exposures to COVID-19 that may result in quarantine procedures. (Durango Herald file)

Durango School District 9-R made some changes to its COVID-19 mitigation and notification procedures in light of new public health guidance adopted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a community update distributed Friday, the school district announced it will no longer notify families when low-risk COVID-19 exposure occurs, instead prioritizing notifications for incidents of “high-risk exposure that could prompt a quarantine.”

The school district is also following reduced isolation and quarantine periods based on updated CDC guidelines that say symptomatic people should isolate for five days from the onset of symptoms and until 24 hours after a fever breaks without the assistance of medication, half the time period of previous guidance.

If a person is asymptomatic, they should isolate five days from their positive test.

“The newest guidance prioritizes getting students and staff back to in-person learning through reduced isolation and quarantine periods when individuals are able to wear a well-fitting mask when they return,” the community update said.

The school district notes that local COVID-19 cases are occurring at a rate of about five times higher than before the holidays but said it is committed to keeping children in the classroom.

“Our district is committed to in-person learning, and we remain committed to our mitigation efforts in order to ensure safe and healthy learning environments,” the update said.

The announcement references “significant concerns” related to remote learning that include social learning, emotional learning and youth mental health.

The update lists mask use, vaccination and testing, hand-washing and ventilation as COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures.

“San Juan Basin Public Health is supportive of our layered mitigation practices to maintain in-person learning and promote health and safety in our schools,” the release said.

Vanessa Giddings, executive director of Student Support Services, said in an email to The Durango Herald that the school district offers vaccination clinics at the elementary schools in partnership with SJBPH.

She said schools within the 9-R district have been able to remain open with limited quarantines so far this school year thanks to these mitigation measures:

  • Testing symptomatic individuals.
  • Symptomatic individuals staying home.
  • Hand-washing.
  • Ventilation and spending time outside as much as possible.
  • Communication for low-risk and high-risk exposures.
  • Weekly serial testing: This practice was extended to all sites as of Jan. 4.

“Durango School District 9-R did follow SJBPH’s Public Health Advisory recommendation to require masking, which has minimized the impact of quarantines in our schools,” Giddings said. “Close contact is eliminated when both the positive individual and the other individual are wearing well-fitting masks, which has reduced the number of students and staff required to quarantine.”

She said maximizing in-person learning will continue to be the school district’s goal in the second half of the school year.

The news release reminds parents that vaccines and boosters are widely available in La Plata County, including for children ages 5 and older. Boosters were expanded for children ages 12 and older.

For more information, visit San Juan Basin Public Health at https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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