The Maricopa Unified School District governing board updated its protocols for isolation of students or teachers who have a positive COVID test at last Wednesday’s board meeting.
Prior to last Wednesday, MUSD’s protocols included optional masking; social distancing when possible; frequent hand washing; regular cleaning, disinfecting and use of electrostatic sprayers on school buses; and closing drinking fountains.
Positive COVID tests were required to isolate for 10 days prior to returning to school; if a student was exposed to COVID, quarantining was at the discretion of the parents.
The board voted to change those protocols to match the most recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and subsequently the Arizona Department of Health Services. The new protocol calls for a five-day isolation period provided that symptoms are improved, and the student has been free of fever for 24 hours. Those students may then return to school after the five days but will be required to wear a mask for the next five days.
The vote to approve the new protocols was 4-1, with member Torri Anderson voting against. Anderson requested information about how many students were being isolated by their parents because of a close contact, but MUSD Director of Administrative Services did not have the numbers at hand.
Using Butterfield Elementary School as an example, Anderson said in referring to a chart that showed the number of people out at each school, “I know that makes it look really simple and like hardly any kids are out, and hardly any staff is out, but in reality, there’s not just 14 kids out. I just know there’s more out than that and I feel like those numbers don’t really reflect the number of people that are out because it is a parent choice whether to isolate if they come in close contact.”
She added that parents always have the option to enroll in Maricopa Virtual Academy if they do not want their children to potentially be subject to repeatedly being taken out of school and put back in, and subject to having to wear a mask upon return.
MUSD Superintendent Dr. Tracey Lopeman clarified the district’s position.
“Just to clarify, quarantining is a choice, so the in and out thing would be at the parents’ discretion, and we don’t have a mask mandate,” Lopeman said. “
As of Jan. 12, there were 167 active COVID cases among MUSD students and 60 among staff, out of a total of 10,307 total students and staff, or about 2.2 percent of the total district student, faculty, staff, district office, and transportation population.