The Arkansas City school board will hold a special meeting Monday to discuss whether to adopt a shorter isolation and quarantine period for students and staff.

Superintendent Ron Ballard said Friday that the district is looking to update its 2022 COVID-19 protocol plan to match the most recent CDC and Kansas Department of Health and Environment guidelines.

He said that the revised protocols include revisions to the number of required quarantine days, and will also modify testing and contact tracing requirements. A flow chart provided to board members shows that someone testing positive should isolate for five days and can return to school if fever-free for 24 hours with a mask through 10 days.

“We’re just updating our paperwork to reflect what they decided last week,” he said. “This is the same thing that was on the board agenda Monday night and we tabled it to wait for the final wording from the KDHE.”

The county’s public health officer, though, is opposed to the shortened isolation period and said he was not consulted.

“Earlier this week schools received guidance from KDHE,” Thomas Langer said. “In the guidance it states if the new proposed guidance meets with the local public health officers approval it can be applied.”

Langer has said he thinks returning to activity after five days carries too much risk of spread and that getting people to wear masks is nearly impossible.

“Seems people are now eager to begin following the CDC as they are saying what they want to hear,” Langer said. “These are the same CDC people that were called foolish and uninformed when masking was discussed initially who have now become brilliant because the message has changed.”

Langer said he would be willing to change his guidance on isolation if a large number of the newly infected people get healthy next week.

The Ark City district is also looking at changing how they handle exposed students.

Ballard said the CDC had stated that a student would only need to be tested if they had been inside a six-foot circle of exposure.

“We’re just not going to be as exhaustive as we were previously,” he said. “We used to check on every kid that was in the room.”

Ballard said the biggest change will be the movement from 10-required quarantine days to five. (Quarantine is the term for close contacts who have to remove themselves from others).

Ballard said that according to the new guidelines, students who test positive will be required to remain at home for five days and wear a mask when around others in the home. Students who return to school after five days of quarantine will be required to wear a mask for an additional five days.

Ballard said that if approved by the board, the updates will become effective immediately.

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