MATT SUSIN: Change in Quarantine Guideline Policy Desperately Needed in Brevard Public Schools
By Matt Susin, BPS Board Member // August 24, 2021
3,172 students contract traced and quarantined in last three school days has creating ripple effect of unintended consequences
Matt Susin requests the Department of Health to reduce six-foot quarantining to three feet with expected dramatic reductions in quarantined students.
While COVID-19 is placing significant strain on our community as a whole, Brevard Public Schools, under the direction of the Brevard Department of Health, has contract traced and quarantined 3,172 students in the last three school days, creating a ripple effect of unintended consequences.
The Centers for Disease Control reduced the social distancing guidelines from six to three feet in educational facilities but made no adjustments to the contact tracing guidelines. Currently, when a positive COVID-19 case is reported, school administrators perform a contact trace to determine which students have come within six feet for more than fifteen minutes.
Those students are sent home to quarantine, and may only return to school once they have received a negative COVID-19 test or have proof of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.
Unfortunately, six feet in each direction can cover a third, if not half of a Brevard classroom. One COVID-19 positive case in secondary schools where students travel to seven classrooms is averaging forced quarantines of 19-22 students.
Different from the 2020-2021 school year where class sizes were reduced with many students participating in the eLearning model, our classes are at full capacity, in accordance with Governor DeSantis’s orders to eliminate the eLearning option.
In addition, secondary schools are back to the seven-period model, instead of the four-period block scheduling model which was in place for the 2020-2021 school year. These two factors have significantly exacerbated the total quarantines.
Currently, Brevard, as well as other school districts, are seeing 99% of students who are being contact-traced and quarantined testing negative or showing no symptoms after quarantine from contact trace measures. This data would indicate that a change in policy is desperately needed.
The current quarantine guidelines have forced our healthcare systems to become testing centers instead of tending to sick patients, an exorbitant number of parents are being forced to stay home and miss work, students are missing valuable education time, educators and administrators have been forced into an endless paradox of COVID-19 reporting, and businesses scrambling to meet deadlines with skeleton staffs.
I am recommending the department of health reevaluates the current guidelines, and reduce the distance from six to three feet for contact tracing.
By rough estimates, this will reduce the number of quarantines from 3,172 by at least a third and save close to 1,000 families from being forced to find child care or stay home, eliminate over 1,000 required tests from our health providers giving them valuable time to tend to the sick, keep 1,000 students in school learning, free up administrative staff time to serve educational needs, and our businesses will be able to operate and contribute to our economy.
This change would not be the first shift from previous guidelines, as Duval County Schools has decided to only contact trace if two students test positive for COVID-19 in one class over a seven-day period in elementary schools.
If only one student tests positive, letters go home but no other students are quarantined. Many other districts have made modifications similar to Duval to alleviate the impact on the educational environment and community without seeing contact trace numbers increase.
After receiving confirmation from school districts all over the state, and many of the administrators in charge of contact tracing, I feel confident in making my recommendation.
As the school district’s governing body over COVID-19 protocol, the Brevard Department of Health will need to make the evaluation and recommendation. As a school board member, I feel it imperative to evolve our policies to accommodate the changing challenges we encounter in this pandemic.
The health of our students and staff and the impact on the learning environment and community at large must continue to be held at the forefront of the decision-making process of our governing entities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matt Susin has been the Brevard Public Schools District 4 Board member since 2016, is a former teacher, and a member of the Economic Development Council and board member of the Space Coast Tech Council. Susin is a graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science dual major degree in political science and history. He has been honored as a Central Florida Humanitarian of the Year, Public Servant of the Year by the Space Coast Economic Development Council and was School Board Member of the Year in 2018.