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New Carroll County schools protocol keeps asymptomatic students out of quarantine

Carroll County Public School students and staff who are a close contact to a positive case but asymptomatic will no longer need to quarantine.

A new protocol went into effect on Monday and parents were notified of the decision on Friday. Last Wednesday, Carroll’s board of education held a special meeting to discuss altering the protocols as 1,405 students — more than 6% of the district’s student population — were reported to be in quarantine because of close contacts at the time.

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The policy change was discussed at that meeting, but no official decision was made at the time.

When classes started on Sept. 8, the first thing school staff would do after learning of a positive COVID-19 case was to send the student home, Karl Streaker, director of student services explained at the meeting. It was then determined when their symptoms started and who came in close contact with the afflicted student. Those close contacts were then placed in quarantine. Usually about 30 to 40 students are involved.

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Streaker added that vaccinated students did not have to quarantine if they were asymptomatic.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Superintendent Steve Lockard suggested only quarantining close contacts who have COVID-19 symptoms. Ed Singer, county health officer, said he wasn’t comfortable with Lockard’s proposal but offered to “work something out that would help meet the school system’s needs and do the best we can to protect the community.”

Singer, who is stepping down as health officer toward the end of the month, said in an interview that people were disappointed with him for compromising with the school system.

“You can’t always have it entirely one way, there’s got to be some give and take,” he said. “I think that’s an important piece to leave behind.”

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Although the new protocol went into effect on Monday, those who are currently in quarantine need to complete their term before returning to school, according to the letter sent to parents on Friday.

“Parents will be alerted by email if their child is a close contact of a COVID-19 positive student,” the letter stated. “If parents choose to keep their child home and quarantine, they should notify the school and their absence will be excused.”

It also stated the school system will continue using mitigation strategies like hand washing, socially distancing to the extent possible, using air purifiers in instructional spaces and complying with the universal mask order.

Carroll County Public Schools did not start the school year with a mask mandate unlike other Baltimore-area public school systems. It implemented a mask mandate after being ordered to do so by the state school board.

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