Quick ticket to quarantine

TISD follows strict quarantine guidelines to prevent virus spread

The+school+nurse+takes+a+student%27s+temperature.+Students+are+being+forced+to+quarantine+based+on+COVID-19+related+symptoms.

Photo by Carrigan Brush

The school nurse takes a student’s temperature. Students are being forced to quarantine based on COVID-19 related symptoms.

Story by Doug Kyles, News Editor

The dreaded call that starts off so unassuming. Seconds later, you’re headed down the hall and out of the school. For at least two weeks, you won’t be back. It has been determined you’ve been in contact with the coronavirus. To say these isolations are inconvenient is an understatement, but in a pandemic, inconvenience is guaranteed. 

Drastic measures like these are in large part what’s responsible for TISD’s relatively low case numbers and ability to remain in person. By taking students out of school at the first sign of the virus, possible contact and spreading of the virus is limited. 

The school’s policy of what justifies removing students is simple: any signs of a possibility of COVID-19 and you must isolate. 

“If a student exhibits any one symptom of [COVID-19], they will be sent home from school,” Heather Spohn, RN, Coordinator for Health Services at Texarkana ISD said. “Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have the symptoms listed on their respective websites. Below, you will find the listing of symptoms by the CDC and which we follow. Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting or diarrhea. This list does not include all possible symptoms.”

With such a wide range of symptoms, just about any sickness or seasonal allergy could be grounds for removal from the school. If symptoms are caused by a non COVID-19 illness, there are separate guidelines for that.

“There are communicable diseases in which a student must be excluded from school for but do not have to quarantine for,” Spohn said. “Those communicable diseases can be found on the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) website.”

If the illness is indeed COVID-19, not only will the ill student have to leave the campus, but all family members who are also enrolled or employed by TISD will be mandated to do the same. Moreover, friends who were possibly exposed will be quarantined as well.

“If it is determined that a student has been in close contact with somebody who has symptoms of [COVID-19] and/or tested positive for [COVID-19], the student must be quarantined for 14 days,” Spohn said. “When a student is sent home due to symptoms of [COVID-19], we do also send home all siblings who attend school in TISD.”

With the possibility, and precedent, of whole families and friend groups being sent home from their campuses all at once, a case in one individual has the potential to derail an entire social circle quickly. How do those sent home get clearance to come back and restart their lives? There is one common protocol.

“The symptomatic student must isolate until 10 days have passed since onset of symptoms, they receive a negative COVID test result or they receive an alternative diagnosis from their doctor,” Spohn said. “The student must be fever/symptom free for 24 hours, without the use of medication, before returning to school. The sibling of the symptomatic student must quarantine for 14 days, unless the symptomatic student receives a negative test result or alternative diagnosis.”

The intended effect of these quarantines would stop COVID-19 in its tracks. That is, however, if they are conducted in the proper manner. Disobeying the rules, returning early, or not reporting exposure to the virus would undermine the purpose of the quarantine. TISD is aware of this and has measures to ensure students do not return before the intended date. 

“When a student is sent home to isolate/quarantine, an email is sent to the school’s administration staff along with attendance registrar and teachers, informing them that the student is out until the date stated, and to please let the health office know if the student is seen on campus prior to this date. The student must be cleared through the school’s health office to return from isolation/quarantine. We do not send out the reason why the student will be absent, only that they will be out and the date they can return,” Spohn said.