School system’s Covid rules on remote learning eligibility contradict CDC advice

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Superintendent Patterson, I want to bring conflicting information regarding the Fayette County Board of Education’s Covid task force rules to your attention.

I also want to share my recent experience with my daughter enrolled at [name withheld] Middle School when she was sick but wanted to continue to attend her classroom instruction via Zoom so she would not lose information. The large investment in technology makes classrooms accessible to every student even if they cannot attend for any reason, whether Covid, common cold, or family emergencies. I have included important information where the school system conflicts with federal guidance below my story.

At the beginning of October my youngest son, who goes to a private school, became sick and tested positive for Covid. A few days later my daughter, who attends [a local] Middle School, started to exhibit the same symptoms as her brother. She took an at-home Covid test, and it came back positive. Shortly after my husband and I also became sick and tested positive with at-home antigen kits.

I contacted her school to make them aware she tested positive for Covid, and I needed her added to the class zoom list. However, they denied her.

I was shocked! My daughter hasn’t missed any days of school due to an illness since Covid had started. The nurse said the only way she qualified to do Zoom classes is if I take her to a doctor and they test her, and I send over my medical records.

Why is this? I informed the nurse we all had Covid, and it was not wise to venture out into public for a test when she took one at home. I did not intend to drag my sick child out when she felt the way she did. There is no reasonable explanation for my family to have a test administered by my physician or the health department considering our at-home test results.

Afterwards I reached out to her teachers to let them know why she wasn’t at school. I had more than one teacher say they would be happy to turn their Zooms on for [my daughter]. Especially her English teacher, because [she] is an IEP student who has a learning disability in reading. I later received emails from the same teachers saying the school told them they couldn’t let her Zoom. So, you have teachers willing to help their students but denied my daughter her right to an education.

My husband even reached out to her principal to explain it to him, and he spoke to [the principal], but she still wasn’t worthy of receiving Zoom instruction. We were also informed if she didn’t run a fever for 24 hours she could return to school. This indicates the school system is more worried about opening a Zoom for a child who has zero discipline issue, no excessive absences and is an all-around great student than exposing more people to Covid. This current rule does not make sense and conflicts with the existence and previous work of the task force.

My daughter is an A and B honor roll child, and she works hard to maintain good grades. It’s a challenge for her because of her reading disability but she still excels. Unfortunately, thanks to the Covid task force rules she now has a failing grade in three of her classes. She has become overwhelmed and upset with work that she is trying to catch up on while also continuing her new assignments.

Yesterday I received a letter from the middle school telling me I needed to contact them because my daughter had five unexcused absences, despite the fact that they were informed on day one of her symptoms and positive Covid result.

I am asking for you to reevaluate the Covid task force rules. My family is only one example of several. It really makes no sense why some students are allowed their education and others are denied.

You are in a unique position to provide for continued learning through Zoom. Recording sessions and instruction via Zoom also allows students a unique opportunity to retrieve important information discussed in class if they need to review the material, sick or not. This is a benefit I would consider you take advantage of, otherwise what good is our investment in the technology that allows this?

I am asking you to consider a few items in regard your current Covid testing requirements at a point of care facility to excuse student absences and allow access to Zoom:

• This requirement places an unreasonable burden on parents and students of low-income status with or without transportation to an approved testing center. (CDC.gov May 15, 2021. Operational Strategy for K-12 schools https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html)

• This requirement conflicts with Federal and state disability laws requiring individual approach for students with disabilities consistent with the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan. (CDC.gov May 15, 2021. Operational Strategy for K-12 schools https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html)

• This requirement conflicts with Health Equity Considerations, subjects parents to missed work, and denies valuable rest and recovery time to students who are ill.

• This requirement unnecessarily exposes healthcare workers and citizens to symptomatic patients and provides no benefit to the patient or the school system. The commonly recommended course of treatment is over the counter medications, self-isolation, and rest in most symptomatic cases. Patients have been asked to follow these guidelines unless their symptoms worsen. (CDC.gov: Self Testing October 21, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/self-testing.html)

• At-home Self-Testing kits are authorized by the FDA under the same authorization as Point of Care Testing. (FDA.org October 4, 2021. Coronavirus Update: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-Covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-additional-otc-home-test-increase-access-rapid-testing)

• CDC recommends At-home antigen testing for non-healthcare employers and many industries across the US currently accept these results. (CDC.gov May 4, 2021. Antigen testing for Screening https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/workplaces-businesses/antigen-testing.html)

• CDC guidance for testing and parental reporting does NOT exclude at-home antigen testing and does not exclude schools from reporting these the same as point of care test results. (CDC.gov May 15, 2021. Operational Strategy for K-12 schools https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html)

• The FCBOE Covid task force guidance and requirements for access to zoom instruction are not clearly stated. It should not be a mystery to parents and students how to receive instruction when they are out sick with Covid or ANY illness. (FCBOE.org. October 25, 2021. Operation Protocols. https://www.fcboe.org/cms/lib/GA01900971/Centricity/Domain/62/PROTOCOLS_TEXT.pdf)

I am requesting a meeting between the task force and principals to discuss this further and will appreciate a call to resolve my issue. My daughter’s absence needs to be excused because the school and county had a responsibility to work with us when I contacted them on day one of her illness.

The parents of a middle school student

[Editor’s note: Names of people and schools have been withheld to prevent social media retaliation. The school officials involved obviously will know them.]