Bend-La Pine School Board members on Tuesday will vote on a proposal that would shorten quarantine and isolation times for COVID-positive students and staff, but the district will need to change the current lunch situation to make it happen.
The proposal from Superintendent Steve Cook comes following new guidance from the CDC and OHA that says those who test positive for COVID, regardless of vaccination status, must stay home for five days and can return to school on day six if they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours.
Cook said he’s talked with districts across the region and state and every one of them had implemented the changes, but the rules around isolating students in days 6-10 presents a challenge for Bend-La Pine’s staff during lunch periods.
“We are currently implementing a resource-demanding lunch plan at every school to cohort students as much as possible and to space them out throughout the school as much as possible to minimize spread of the virus and, subsequently, loss of learning time for students due to possible exclusion,” the plan said.
So Cook proposes removing that plan and allowing students to once again eat lunch in their school cafeterias instead of the classroom (when they’re allowed to eat inside.)
“This would free up a tremendous amount of supervision responsibility and a tremendous number of rooms/spaces that are currently being used to cohort student lunch groups,” the plan said. “It would also provide the opportunity to give a lot of relief to staff who can’t use their rooms during student lunch due to students eating their lunches in these rooms and reduce the load on custodial staff and teachers who are cleaning lunch mess in many classrooms.”
If the board approves the recommendation, the district can transition to shortened quarantine and isolation periods.
Cook said the implementation of the current plan varies to some degree at school, but the high degree of required staff supervision was consistent across the district.
The CDC/OHA recommendations get kids back into the classroom more quickly, but it’s a tough ask of staff right now.
“Any new demands or additional asks to the plates of our teachers, our administrators and the staff in our schools will take a tremendous toll on staff morale,” he said.
Students will still eat breakfast in their classrooms and eat lunch outside when weather permits.
When students must eat inside they’ll do so in designated areas and with assigned seating 6-feet apart to the extent possible.
And they’ll be required to keep their masks on as they move through the foodservice line.
To return to the traditional lunch plan, Cook said schools would be expected to have a supervised space for isolated students returning to school for days 6-10 that is separate from the general population.
“This recommendation aligns us to the current guidelines of all of our public health partners, brings us in closer alignment with the plans of other districts both in the region and the state and most importantly could provide some supervision relief to our beleaguered staff,” he said.
The school board will meet on Tuesday night in a special meeting at 5:30.