CDC and state lighten up on COVID-19 protocols for the new school year
The Gibraltar Area School District maintained the most cautious COVID-19 protocols among Door County schools during the past school year and in 2020-21, but the Northern Door approach will likely mirror neighboring districts’ approach this school year.
That’s not because Gibraltar has a new superintendent, but rather, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave districts the go-ahead to lighten up on prevention measures during this school year.
“I think one thing is, we know more,” said Brett Stousland, Gibraltar’s new superintendent. “From one to two years ago when school started, there were a lot of questions about health and safety. The CDC just last week released its new guidance, which is much more lenient than it was the last two years.”
Students or teachers who finish a five-day quarantine are free to return to school while wearing a mask for another five days at Gibraltar, Stousland said.
Neither will there be widespread contact tracing in the Gibraltar schools this year. However, if there’s an outbreak of many cases in a classroom, the district would promptly notify parents. Stousland said the district will keep track of its case numbers and respond accordingly.
Sturgeon Bay Schools Superintendent Dan Tjernagel said he liked the summary of the protocols leading into this school year, which he found in a paragraph on the third page of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) COVID-19 Infection Control and Mitigation Measures for 2022-23.
“Schools are not required to conduct contract tracing as a standard practice but should continue to work with the local and tribal health departments in the case of outbreaks,” according to that protocol summary from DPI. “Quarantine periods may be omitted. Asymptomatic (exposed) children and staff, regardless of where the exposure occurred or vaccination status, no longer need to quarantine. Students or staff who self-identify as close contacts may continue to attend school/work if they remain asymptomatic.”
Southern Door Schools Superintendent Chris Peterson said the district’s protocols at the beginning of the school year closely match the measures followed at the end of last school year.
“Masking will be optional,” he said. “A close contact [of a quarantined student] can stay in school unmasked as long as they are symptom free.”
As for students or employees who were diagnosed with COVID-19, “If they test positive, they can return if they’re symptom free after five days.”
Peterson said the Southern Door district will continue to make on-site testing available.
“If you have symptoms, you don’t have to go to the clinic,” Peterson said, adding that he hoped the school wouldn’t see much of COVID-19 this school year. “We’re all optimistic it’s going to be a lot less than last year.”
Sevastopol School Superintendent Kyle Luedtke said he hopes the district will continue to provide COVID-19 tests at the school.
“We’ve requested testing for this year through a grant from the state,” Luedtke said. “I haven’t heard yet if they have the staffing for it from Summit Labs. We’ll have on-site testing if they can find the personnel.”
The district would require testing, either on site or at a medical office, only if a student is showing two or more symptoms of COVID-19. At the end of the past school year, Sevastopol had a 10-day quarantine requirement for students or staff diagnosed with the virus.
“If they test positive, they have to be out for five days, and when they get back, they have to mask for five days,” Luedtke said. “That’s the plan for now. I’ll present that to the board next week on Wednesday.”
Classes don’t start until Sept. 6 for Gibraltar students and Sept. 1 at Sturgeon Bay, Sevastopol, Southern Door and Washington Island. However, school – or at least orientation – opened the week of Aug. 14 for many new teachers countywide.
“Right now we’re gearing up, getting all of our professional development set up,” said Peterson, who welcomed eight new teachers this week at Southern Door. “We’re just happy to be starting without having to mask up.”
Sturgeon Bay, Sevastopol, Southern Door and Washington Island students all return to school Sept. 1. Classes for Gibraltar students begin Sept. 6.