Prior to the holiday break, district leaders had shared plans with board members to bring forth the recommendation about shortening quarantine. Other districts including Clear Creek ISD have also adopted the 10-day quarantine based on current guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A reduction in quarantine length from the 14-day standard “based on local circumstances and resources,” including access to testing, is permitted, per the CDC. However, if a student or staff member is contacted by Galveston County Health District during their contact tracing process, those individuals may be required to adhere to a 14-day quarantine based on health district guidance, district leaders said.
Quarantine is meant to begin 48 hours prior to either the onset of symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test, whichever occurred first, the district’s executive director of safety and operations Erich Kreiter said during the meeting. The residual post-quarantine transmission risk is anywhere from 1-10% after a 10-day quarantine, compared to 5-12% with a weeklong quarantine, per the CDC.
More protocol changes
Aside from the quarantine shortening, other notable protocol revisions include the following:
- Addition of language to note before- and after-school activities for elementary clubs and groups—such as student council, choir, chess club and robotics—resumed Oct. 19 and will continue throughout the remainder of the school year;
- Language describing the shortening of quarantine time—also updating Level 2 of the District and Campus Response Protocols to reflect the change—and noting students will move to virtual instruction for the duration of quarantine;
- Language noting the prohibition of parent volunteers for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year; and
- A contact update to reflect Lindsey Foley’s appointment as executive director of Human Resources, which happened in late 2020.
With about 440 of the district’s 6,100 students learning virtually this spring, one instructor is teaching per grade level for remote students. The shortening of quarantine helps ensure these teachers are not overwhelmed with an influx of new virtual learners, particularly as students switch to on-campus instruction in grades two through five, said Executive Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning Lauren Ambeau.
Previously, some elementary virtual teachers had seen classroom sizes close to 70 as students transitioned back to on-campus classrooms, Ambeau said.
Superintendent Thad Roher said the district is working to vaccinate its staffers who fall under Phase 1B of the state’s rollout plan, which includes people over the age of 65 and those considered high-risk based on pre-existing medical conditions. FISD nurses have all been vaccinated, he added, thanks to a local doctor.
Roher and other regional superintendents participate frequently in calls with local health authorities. Information given during the Jan. 12 call he was on before the board meeting indicated to Roher the county was recalibrating its vaccine approach, he said.
“We’re kind of starting over again,” he said Jan. 12.
The recalibration was due to the county redirecting resources to establish two vaccination hubs: One is at the University of Texas Medical Branch hospital in Galveston, and the other hub is at the Galveston County Health District, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Neither are filling new vaccination appointments as of the afternoon of Jan. 19.
Friendswood, FISD COVID-19 case count data
The city of Friendswood has seen an additional 266 coronavirus cases since the start of 2021 for an average of about 15 new cases per day, according to Galveston County Health District data. Nearly 600 cases are active in Friendswood, with six city residents hospitalized due to COVID-19, as of Jan. 19.
Kreiter attributed the January rise in active cases at FISD to community activity, saying the increase reflects holiday surges and not campus spread. He expects district case counts to dip in the coming weeks.
The district had 38 active cases as of Jan. 19, down from 48 cases at the end of the previous week.
“I am proud every time I have to send an email response back to a parent, or have a phone conversation with a parent, as far as what we’ve done [with COVID-19] ... our protocols we put in place are phenomenal, and it’s kept kids in schools,” Kreiter said Jan. 12.
Roher recently met with Texas Medical Center directors who emphasized the importance of control when it comes to containing the spread of COVID-19, he said, and the directors told him school districts in general are instrumental in controlling virus transmission.
“Frankly, getting kids back in school into those controlled environments might help us,” Roher said.