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COVID and the classroom: The guidance is changing

Response to how virus is spread
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Posted at 7:15 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 19:23:35-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Updated COVID-19 school guidelines are now in effect. The state changed its approach to containing the coronavirus inside schools, as experts now say it appears most exposure to COVID-19 is happening outside the classroom.

According to the state’s most recent recommendations, students and staff will no longer have to quarantine from contract tracing inside the classroom so long as everyone now stays three feet apart.

It’s a decision the Indiana State Teachers Association is not happy about. “It’s very disheartening that the decision like this was made without consulting those people that it’s going to have a direct impact on,” said Keith Gambill, ISTA President.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box announced last week that if students, teachers and staff remain three feet apart - instead of six - and are wearing face masks in class, a 14-day quarantine will no longer be necessary for teachers and students when there is a positive COVID case.

“Data from individual schools in the state and across the U.S. indicate that it is rare for student infections to occur from exposure in the classroom when all parties are masked,” said Dr. Box. “That data shows only about 3-5% of infections occur in classroom.”

“If it’s very low, then why are we changing what appears to be working?” asks Gambill. ISTA has taken its concerns to the governor’s office. The association believes schools should err on the side of caution and stay consistent with what has been working.

“There are new variances of the virus and our concern is that these changes have been made that in some ways relax what has been happening in our schools at a time when the virus isn’t relaxing,” said Gambill. He recognizes quarantine rules have affected many people’s lives. But that’s why he’s pushing for teachers to be prioritized when it comes to being vaccinated, saying once schools can get back to normal, families and their livelihoods, can too.

“It is very disruptive and it is part of why we have called for a direct responses to where educators will be in getting the vaccine,” he said. “Because that’s just one more level of trying to get schools to be somewhat more normal than it has been.”

This is also not mandated from the state — just simply guidance. It does not apply outside the classroom, such as during lunch, athletics, band, choir, or any other school setting where students gather.