APS walking a thin line when it comes to COVID-19 protocols

Published 7:01 am Wednesday, September 16, 2020

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Trying to find the right path.

That’s what plenty of school districts are trying to do in order to keep up with the changing world of the COVID-19 pandemic. Solving that challenge becomes even more difficult when the rule book is being written as it goes.

Austin Public Schools is no different as it finds way through the process of guidelines it must follow in order to keep schools open.

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Earlier this summer, as district officials were bringing together a gameplan for reopening schools, administration was forced to follow guidance from the state. A difficult situation in constantly changing times.

“It’s a pretty fluid situation,” said Mark Raymond, head of human relations at APS.

At the heart of this fluid situation is the data and how that data changes the situation as the pandemic draws out.

“The interesting intersection of this is MDH is still learning how,” Raymond said. “It isn’t like MDH has everything dialed in perfect. They’re still writing the rules and figuring out how this works.”

And as MDH figures things out, so does Austin Public Schools.

Before the MDH’s guidance for schools was that if a student has at least one symptom overall, they are required to stay home from school and self-quarantine for 14 days.

Now, the symptoms have taken a more tiered approach.

“The Minnesota Department of Health came out with some recommendations on the self-quarantine checklist and decisions tree,” explained Allison Gunderson, the district’s COVID coordinator. “When they update the decision tree, we have to follow the updated version. We’re in the process of updating material for parents.”

That information came out this week and breaks down symptoms into two lists.

First, there is a common symptoms list where the old still applies: should a student have one of the symptoms, they are required to self-quarantine.

However, a secondary list with less common symptoms have a child quarantining with at least two symptoms.

What’s more is that other children who may be living in the same household will be required to stay home as well for that same 14-day time period.

“I think it’s new for everyone,” Gunderson said. “We’re using this as an educational point too.”

Both Raymond and Gunderson stress parents should pay attention to parent portals where info will be pressed through.

Despite these new guidelines and those things that follow it, including masks, the students seem to be taking this new form of education well.

In her position as COVID coordinator for the school, which she has been in for just over 10 days now, Gunderson was impressed how the students keep going forward.

“I think what I’ve heard so far, students have been super respectful of following the guidance of face masks,” she said. “It’s great to see students back, but it’s different and they’re still getting used to  school 2020.”

Your child must stay home if they have at least one symptom from the list

• Fever of 100.4 F or higher

• A new cough or cough gets worse

• Difficulty or trouble breathing

• New loss of taste or smell

Your child must stay home if they have at least two symptoms from this list, even if they do not have any symptoms from the list above

• Sore throat

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Diarrhea

• Chills

• Muscle pain

• Excessive fatigue (being very tired)

• New or severe headache

• New nasal congestion or runny nose.