Local school district adds mask mandate to help keep kids in the classroom

Local News

(WKBN) – We are about a month into the school year in the Valley and schools are still having to contact trace for students and staff who test positive for COVID-19. For some schools, it’s been a hassle.

When a school finds out a student has caught COVID-19, there’s a process to contact trace.

Schools have to make sure any student who could have been exposed needs to be quarantined, unless they were more than three feet away, have been vaccinated and/or the students were masked.

“Our administrative team and nursing staff hasn’t had a weekend since the weekend before school started, when all this started. We’ve not had a weekend off,” said Crestview Schools Superintendent Matthew Manley.

They’ve had staff members perform double duty since then. Some teachers are having to give up their planning periods to help fill in.

Manley says there have been between 60 to 80 kids absent a day in the high school out of 400 between positive cases and quarantine.

Last week, Crestview started a mask mandate.

“And to be honest, today is the best day of staffing and the least number of high school students [absent]. I’ve only seen the high school attendance so far, and we’re three days into a change,” Manley said.

Under the rules for contact tracing, the school could be sending home healthy kids without the masks, which is why Manley pushed for masks.

“If I would get sick, I don’t want them to have to go to quarantine. I want to make sure if I’m masked, I’m vaccinated, they don’t have to go to quarantine, and I think that’s the key point we’re doing that. We don’t want to send people home that are currently healthy,” Manley said.

He says his level of frustration comes from not having the kids there to teach.

“You know, if they told me that no one would have COVID if I stood on the roof of the school, I would go stand on the roof of the school all weekend long,” Manley said.

First News also reached out to Columbiana Schools to see how they are doing.

Superintendent Donald Mook says, as of right now, they are seeing less than one percent of kids at home because of contact tracing, and it hasn’t been seen largely inside of one building.

Mook says one of the main reasons is thanks to the parents.

“Our attendance rates are a little higher right now, but we’re encouraging parents to not send kids to school when they are sick. That’s the big difference between last year and this year,” he said.

Mook says last year, when the rules were different, they had 700 students sent home because of contact tracing.

They only believe one of those 700 contracted COVID-19.

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