At its regular meeting on Thursday, September 9, 2021, after discussing the current public health crisis with officials from the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department and local healthcare providers, the Roane County Board of Education moved to aid community efforts to fight the current surge in COVID-19 by strengthening safety measures already in place.
The Board joins other local agencies, including the City of Spencer, Roane County Commission, and 5th Judicial Circuit, and 50 of 55 county boards of education in strengthening safety measures as local hospitals and healthcare providers have been pushed to capacity and beyond with the increase in COVID-19 cases since before school started in August. Roane County has seen a 40- to 50-fold increase in weekly cases of COVID-19 since mid-July, a surge credited to the spread of the Delta variant throughout the eastern part of the United States.
- The mask requirement already in place for school buses will be expanded to include all indoor facilities beginning Monday, September 13, 2021. This requirement will be in place through October 21, 2021, and will be re-evaluated.
- Physical distancing measures in classrooms, cafeterias, and other spaces will be examined and increased if possible through modifications to classroom furniture, class schedules, hallway and meal procedures, and other means.
- Contact tracing and quarantine protocols will continue. Anyone who is unvaccinated and found to be in close contact with someone with COVID-19 will be placed in a precautionary quarantine and encouraged to test no earlier than five days after exposure. Any close contact who is fully vaccinated is not required to quarantine but is strongly encouraged to test three to five days after exposure to help detect often mild, so-called "breakthrough" cases that can lead to re-transmission of the virus in some instances.
- Additional opportunities for screening testing and vaccinations will be explored to help alleviate capacity concerns with local healthcare providers.
Other mitigation strategies, such as the integrated air purification and filtration systems on central air handers or in-room air purifiers where central air handling is not available, hand washing and cough / sneeze etiquette reminders, classroom hand sanitizer stations, and increased cleaning and sanitization protocols will remain in place.
The full list of mitigation strategies put in place by the Board are modeled after the CDC's Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools and can be found below:
1) Promoting Vaccination
All eligible Roane County residents are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.
2) Consistent and Correct Mask Use
Beginning Monday, September 13, 2021, all students, staff, and visitors are required to properly wear a mask when indoors, regardless of vaccination status. This requirement will be in place through Thursday, October 21, 2021, and will be re-evaluated.
All students and staff on school buses must wear a mask under CDC Order.
3) Physical Distancing
Roane County Schools will maintain small class sizes and refrain from large indoor assemblies, gatherings, etc., of students.
4) Screening Testing
Testing remains available through community healthcare partners on-demand and through scheduled drive-through events. Further availability may become available if needed.
Ventilation upgrades installed in August 2020 remain in place throughout Roane County Schools facilities.
6) Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette
Staff will continue to encourage good handwashing and respiratory etiquette with students. Permanent hand sanitizer stations have been installed in classrooms and common spaces.
7) Staying Home When Sick and Getting Tested
Students and staff who are sick should not come to school. School nurses will monitor students and staff for symptoms and dismiss those who show symptoms typical of COVID-19 unless and until a negative test is presented. Unvaccinated students and staff awaiting test results should not come to school. Vaccinated students and staff awaiting test results may come to school so long as they are not showing symptoms of COVID-19.
8) Contact Tracing in Combination with Isolation and Quarantine
Working with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, Roane County Schools will continue to perform contact tracing and require quarantines for exposure to or positive test results for COVID-19.
Vaccinated students and staff are not required to quarantine unless they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and / or test positive for COVID-19. They are encouraged to be tested 3 - 5 days after exposure as a precaution.
Unvaccinated students are not required to quarantine after close contact with another student who tests positive for COVID-19 if and only if both students were wearing a mask at the time of exposure.
Unvaccinated staff are always required to quarantine after close contact with any individual who tests positive for COVID-19.
Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an individual for 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period, except in classroom situations in which both students are wearing masks and the contact was between 3 and 6 feet.
Quarantine length shall be defined by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department in each case. Typically, unvaccinated individuals are required to quarantine for 10 days if no symptoms occur or 7 days if no symptoms occur with a negative test result taken on or after day 5.
9) Cleaning and Disinfection
Roane County Schools will continue to implement additional cleaning procedures as needed. This includes sanitizing classrooms after confirmation of a positive test result for a member of the class or removal of a sick student or staff member.