Dear Monroe School District community,
While it has been an absolute joy to have students back in our schools full time, it has been complex to manage the challenges of contact tracing, labor shortages, and continuing to provide student learning during quarantine periods. We know the last few weeks have been equally challenging for many of our families as well.
To help mitigate some of these challenges, last week we were awarded a COVID-19 funding grant that will allow us to hire additional nursing staff. We are hopeful that increased nursing staff along with some of the information provided below will help as we continue to navigate these complex times together.
Modified Quarantine for Close Contacts
Last week, the Snohomish Health District met with local school districts and shared that they would now permit the duration of the quarantine period for those individuals identified as close contacts to be modified, in alignment with requirements for K-12 schools established by the Washington State Department of Health (pages 11-12). Previously, the Snohomish Health District had required that unvaccinated staff and students quarantine for a 14 day period when identified as close contacts; however, they are now permitting school districts to shorten the quarantine period to 10 days after the last close contact, without requiring testing. If any symptoms develop during the 10 days, individuals must remain in quarantine for the full 14 days and get tested.
In order to minimize students' time out of school and potential learning loss, Monroe School District will move to this 10 day quarantine period for unvaccinated close contacts. Identified close contacts may return to school 10 days after their last close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual without testing, as long as they are symptom free. We will also continue to support those families who prefer to keep their students home for the 14 day quarantine. This change will go into effect today, September 27. Unvaccinated individuals identified as close contacts prior to today must continue to stay in quarantine for the full 14 day period per the Snohomish Health District.
In addition, the Snohomish Health District, in alignment with the Washington State Department of Health, is now permitting a "test to stay" 7 day quarantine period for unvaccinated close contacts with proof of a negative PCR test and as long as they continue to be symptom free. As required by the Washington State Department of Health, school districts electing to participate in the Test to Stay Program (see page 13), must have approval to do so via a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with their local health district. Monroe School District is actively working on a MOA with the Snohomish Health District in order to participate in this program. We will not move to the 7 day quarantine period until we have an approved MOA and are able to provide onsite testing at our schools.
Knowing When to Return to School
We understand that navigating when it's okay to send your student to school when they have symptoms of illness, have been identified as close contacts, or are awaiting COVID-19 test results can be very confusing. Thankfully, last week the Snohomish Health District released a COVID-19 Return to School Flow Chart to help families navigate a variety of circumstances. This resource is now linked on our website under the COVID-19 menu. They also released a helpful COVID-19 Toolkit for Schools that addressed many frequently asked questions, which we have also linked on our website.
As a reminder, students and staff awaiting results of a COVID-19 test may not come to school until they have received confirmation via a PCR/NAAT test that they are negative for COVID-19. According to the Snohomish Health District, all rapid tests, even if they have been administered by a healthcare provider, are not sufficient for a student or staff member to return to school if they have COVID-19 symptoms. A negative PCR/NAAT test is required. We have compiled a list of free PCR testing sites, which can be found on our website.
While COVID-19 cases in Snohomish County are starting to slightly decline, it takes all of us, as a community, to continue this trend and to continue to mitigate transmission in our schools. We kindly ask for your continued partnership by keeping students home when they are sick, getting them tested for COVID-19 if/when it is needed, reporting confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the school, and encouraging them to wear their masks properly and wash their hands frequently.
MSD Chief of Student Services