Sioux Falls Schools adjusts student absentee requirement because of COVID-19

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The coronavirus could mean a student in the Sioux Falls School District may need to isolate for 10 days or quarantine for 14 days.

Isolation would be for students who have COVID-19 and quarantine would be for student who has close contact with a COVID-19 case and must quarantine to monitor symptoms.

COVID-19 could cause some students to be at home for extended periods, which could mean the student could have more than 10 or more missed school days. During a regular school year excessive absences would require verification of absences from a doctor, dentist or other medical professional. Based on school policy JH, with JK-R, a student with excessive unapproved absences could face disciplinary actions.

The school district has changed that verification requirement because of COVID-19.

The district adopted a COVID-19 portion to the absentee policy in March. It reads, “Superintendent will suspend the illness documentation requirement when student absences and clinic capacity to see patients reach a critical level or when otherwise advised by healthcare professionals. At such time as student absences and clinic demand return to normal levels, the illness documentation will be reinstated.”

The authorization for the superintendent to suspend the verification requirement on student absents. The information is on the Sioux Falls School District website.

Also, the district has “established additional leave protocols for all employee groups,” school district spokeswoman Carly Uthe said.

South Dakota Department of Health officials said the agency is working with school districts on handling potential COVID-19 cases and exposure. The DOH determines the level of close contact in the school when a staff member or student has COVID-19.

As school districts screen staff and students for COVID-19 symptoms, if symptoms are identified, it could cause more students to isolate or COVID-19.

Molly Satter, the SFSD’s health services coordinator, said students who exceed 10 days of missed school because of COVID-19 won’t be penalized.

Part of the SFSD Return To Learn plan includes specific guidelines for health screenings and response when a student or staff members gets COVID-19.

The parent and guardian handbook also includes the guidelines.

If a student has a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, the student should stay away from school for 10 days from symptom onset and 24 hours without a fever and improved symptoms, according to the parent and guardian handbook and Ready To Learn plan.

The SFSD screening guidelines are based on guidelines from the S.D. DOH and the Centers for Disease Control. In general, a student with symptoms contained in the daily screening or identified as COVID-19 positive should stay home for 10 calendar days and 24 hours without a fever and improved symptoms. If it’s determined a student has been in close contact with a COVID-19 case that student would need to stay home for 14 calendar days from last contact with a COVID-19 case to monitor systems. The SFSD school district says a student cannot test out of a 14-day quarantine.

Sheila Freed, the president of the South Dakota Nurses Association and Avera eCare School Health Director, said South Dakota schools are following DOH and CDC guidelines.

Freed has been working with school districts that had already started school as of Aug. 26.

“Today (Aug. 26) we actually had a student with a sore throat,” Freed said of a school district on Aug. 26. “So this year, a student with a sore throat needs to go home.”

Satter said SFSD is aware that some students may have existing conditions such as allergies that can cause some COVID-19 symptoms. Another illness could cause COVID-19 symptoms such as strep throat causing a sore throat, she said.

One piece of evaluating health includes considering new symptoms for a student or staff member, Satter said.

Also, Freed and Satter said, school nurses and school staff are aware of students who have medical care plans.

In cases of students with existing medical conditions, the ability to talk with parents during the school year will be important, Satter said.

A graphic on symptoms from the SFSD parent and guardian handbook.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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