▶️ Parents, public react to new BLS reduced quarantine rules

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Some parents in the Bend-La Pine school district shared their thoughts on Wednesday about the latest COVID rule change in schools. 

On Tuesday night, the Bend-La Pine school board voted 5-2 in favor of reducing quarantine times for students and staff in the district.

The vote follows the CDC recommendation to welcome COVID-positive students and staff back to the classroom after five days of quarantine, rather than the original 10-day requirement. 

“We have consistently followed OHA and CDC guidance. We have said we’re gonna follow that, and sometimes it’s felt too loose, sometimes it’s felt too strict,” board chair Melissa Barnes-Dholakia said at Tuesday’s meeting

Some parents in the district feel the sooner kids are back in the classroom, the better. 

“Yes, it’s nice to see the kids back in school as long as it’s safe for everyone, I think it’s a great thing,” North Star Elementary parent Kelly Sitter said. 

“They really struggled when they were at home learning with me. They need that socialization, they need professional teachers getting them through,” said Scott Howitson, another North Star Elementary parent. 

Members of the public voted on a poll on the Central Oregon Daily News website throughout the day Wednesday, which showed most were in favor of the reduced quarantine times. 

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Do you agree with the decision by Bend-La Pine Schools to follow OHA/CDC guidelines and shorten the COVID quarantine period to 5 days?
Do you agree with the decision by Bend-La Pine Schools to follow OHA/CDC guidelines and shorten the COVID quarantine period to 5 days?
Do you agree with the decision by Bend-La Pine Schools to follow OHA/CDC guidelines and shorten the COVID quarantine period to 5 days?

Some members of the school board felt differently. 

“To do this in the middle of a surge, to do it when we cannot do it well…it seems like we could put a little more thought into it,” said board member Shimiko Montgomery. 

The change in rules means students will now be moved into the cafeteria for lunchtimes.

They were previously spread out among classrooms for distancing purposes. 

Those just returning from quarantine 6-10 days after a positive test will eat in those freed up classrooms, in case of lingering infection. 

“For right now if they need a little more distance, they can’t sit right next to each other, that’s what we’re going to have to do,” Howitson said. 

Board member Amy Tatom said in Tuesday’s meeting she worried that moving kids into the cafeteria would eliminate safe spacing options. 

“If you’re a student and you have a newborn baby at home, or you have a parent or grandparent who’s going through cancer treatment, those kids need the option to eat outside,” Tatom said. 

District administrators replied that they would do their best to accommodate students who need a separate space, but could not guarantee exactly what that would look like.

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