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New COVID-19 safety, quarantine protocols for Bay District Schools

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 11:09 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - COVID-19 has had a profound effect on Bay District Schools students. One student took a stand at Tuesday’s school board meeting against the current quarantine policy.

“I have first-hand experience. I know a ton of people who have. We’re there for the students and we need the students in class and making good grades,” Garrison Morris, a freshman at Bay High School, said.

Morris said he’s been quarantined from school twice, which lowered his grades.

He’s not alone, thousands have quarantined so far this school year in the district. Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt said the district follows CDC guidelines. Students six feet or closer to another student, who has tested positive for COVID-19, go into quarantine.

“We know that these quarantines to these students from the classroom are not necessary. We’ve known that and we were all frustrated by it,” Husfelt said.

He said the board approved reducing the 6-feet radius to 3 feet. He adds they considered this change after looking at data from a recent Harvard study.

“We’ve heard parents beg us to quit quarantining their kids who aren’t getting it and so we feel comfortable with the data we’ve got and the research we’ve done,” said Husfelt.

The Emerald Coast Medical Association Board of Directors wrote in a statement:

“The Emerald Coast Medical Association Board of Directors feels it is critical for students to be able to attend school when they are asymptomatic and otherwise healthy. Domestic violence rates have risen and students diagnosed with clinically significant anxiety is at an all-time high in correlation with increased quarantine rates. It has been well documented that the safest place for children is in the classroom.

Furthermore, the incidence of COVID in children is significantly less than in comparative cohorts.

Accordingly, we strongly support any decision put forth by the school board that would reduce the absence rate of children from our schools.”

Morris said quarantining has been tough mentally as well. Husfelt said if parents are concerned about these new changes, they should speak with kids who have already been quarantined to try and understand the struggles they’ve faced. Husfelt adds quarantining is causing frustration, anxiety, and depression among his students.

“Parents might not get it, but it’s very mentally draining and if their kid hasn’t been quarantined, then they won’t understand like we have,” said Morris.

Morris said he also speaks for his classmates. Husfelt said just being in the classroom will bring grades up.

According to the district’s website, it’s seen 740 positive cases since the beginning of the school year, resulting in more than 5,500 quarantines. This counts students who’ve quarantined multiple times. As of Tuesday, 610 students and staff are in quarantine, for either testing positive for the virus or being within 6 feet of someone who has.

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