Based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Northwest Allen County Schools has reduced the duration of quarantines for students and employees who had close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19.

The district received approval to reduce the number of quarantine days from 14 to 10 in certain situations for individuals without COVID-19 testing if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring and by adhering to the following procedures:

• The student or employee may return to school or work on day 11 if they experienced no symptoms during the quarantine period. A mask is required at all times except while eating or drinking.

• The student or employee must maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more from others whenever practical.

Students participating in extracurricular activities may return to the activities by adhering to the following procedures:

• Athletes may partially return to practice by wearing a mask and maintaining 6 feet or more distance from others during practice until day 14 concludes. To comply with the additional requirements, practice activities and locker room protocols will be adjusted. The athlete may not participate in contests with other schools or fully participate in practice until after the 14-day quarantine period ends.

• For those involved in other extracurricular activities, they may partially return to the activity by wearing a mask and maintaining 6 feet or more distance from others during the activity until day 14 concludes. To comply with the additional requirements, procedures will be adjusted based on the type of activities involved.

“Additionally we worked with the other members of the Summit Athletic Conference. We had decided before the season started to revisit what was going on when we got through the winter break, and we did so … And the Allen County Department of Health did approve us making some slight attendance procedure changes for our activities,” NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel said.

The change to attendance at athletic events allows for limited attendance even while Allen County is red on the state’s COVID-19 county metrics map. It also allows for an increase in attendance if the county achieves yellow status.

“That was a difficult thing to get through, for all the schools to reach an agreement on, but we were able to do that, and the Allen County Department of Health signed off on that,” Himsel said.

NACS students and staff returned from winter break on Jan. 5.

“Over the break, I’m happy to report that we did have several of our staff members who have been on quarantine or isolated return to work,” Himsel said. “Hopefully they are able to remain there. We’re hopeful that we can return to the routines that we had through the first 10 weeks or so of school during the first semester, and maintain adequate staffing levels to continue with the outside learning through the remainder of the school year.

“… In order to increase the likelihood of continuing onsite, each of my past two communications have requested for those who may have the ability to serve as a substitute to consider doing so, but I also wanted to reiterate that we don’t plan to deviate from our criteria of screening employees, to make sure that we avoid having people work with our children who, frankly, probably should not be working with our children.”

Himsel noted during the school board’s Jan. 11 meeting that he hopes the availability of vaccines to individuals age 70 and older will help more substitute teachers return to work safely. NACS is also considering the possibility of increasing substitute teacher pay as neighboring school districts have.

“We are investigating the ramifications of those if we were to implement something similar,” Himsel said. “There is a domino effect that doesn’t just affect pay per substitute, but also gets into some of the contractual things that we need to make sure of. And we also have to make sure that it would actually result in increasing the pool of applicants, which would be the goal.”

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