Itawamba County School District (ICSD) officials have approved a COVID-19 response plan for schools across the county. The guidelines address protocol when a teacher, student, or staff member experiences symptoms of the novel coronavirus or comes in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

According to the guidelines, students, staff, and faculty are to remain at home if experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, a fever above 100 degrees, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, headaches, recent loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Parents will be notified if a student, staff, or faculty member has tested positive for the virus, with the notification being targeted to those who have been potentially exposed. The names of those who have tested positive for the virus won’t be released, however.

Individuals who test positive for the virus will be required to notify the school or a direct supervisor immediately and then isolate at home for 14 days before being allowed to return to school.

Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 must be symptom-free for 72 hours, including being fever free without medication, before being permitted to return to school.

The guidelines require anyone who has come into close contact – defined as being within 6 feet from someone for 15 minutes or more without a mask – with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 to self-quarantine for 14 days. If that individual then develops symptoms of COVID-19, he or she will be required to be tested for the virus.

If a symptomatic child is sent home, they must self-quarantine for 14 days unless, after the time the child was sent home, they receive a negative COVID-19 test result or present a doctor’s statement showing the symptoms were unrelated to COVID-19.

The plan also outlines how and when schools will be dismissed in the event of an outbreak. According to the plan, ICSD leaders will evaluate each situation individually using risk assessment guidelines recommended by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) in determining if any closings are necessary. In the event of an outbreak (three or more cases within a single group, class or team) all members would self-quarantine for 14 days and remain isolated until he/she is symptom-free for 72 hours, including being fever free without medication.

An uncontrolled spread in the school could require the particular building in which it occurred to dismiss, if practical, for 14 days. If not practical, the entire school may close. School district leaders will determine whether a school or building’s closure is necessary by utilizing a risk analysis process that factors in a variety of criteria including the level of congestion in the space where the outbreak occurred and how that space is used.

According to the plan, parents should be prepared for distance learning in the event schools are closed by order of the state or federal government or by the school board.

ICSD is currently working to obtain Chromebooks through the CARES Act should the need arise to dismiss schools. Students who don’t have reliable access to the internet will be provided manual work.

During a recent special school board meeting, Superintendent Trae Wiygul told school district leaders both the Return to School Plan and the COVID-19 Response Plan had been researched and discussed at length in administrative meetings, but are subject to change as circumstances during the pandemic change.

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