DeSoto County Schools is changing its attendance policy for the month of January and adjusted its quarantine and isolation requirements to come in line with recent COVID-19 recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The changes were approved during Thursday’s board meeting in Hernando, a meeting that had just enough members for a quorum with board members Sheila Riley and Milton Nichols not attending.
Supt. Cory Uselton made the recommendation for the attendance policy changes, stating they are for this month only. The move comes with a rise in coronavirus cases while testing opportunities are becoming tougher to find.
“If a child is showing symptoms but cannot get a test, the parent will notify the attendance clerk and the child will be marked as quarantined while they’re waiting for a test,” Uselton said. “The reason we’re doing that is there is a real problem with people getting an available test. We want there to be no barrier for a parent to feel they should send their student to school from the attendance standpoint.”
Uselton told board members the district would assess the situation at the end of the month to see if the policy needed to be extended past the end of the month.
“If the cases aren’t as high and we also have more availability for testing, it may not be necessary,” Uselton said.
The other recommendation Uselton made that was passed by the board puts the district in line with recent moves by the CDC regarding a five-day quarantine followed by five days wearing a mask. Uselton said it would apply to employees and students.
School board attorney Jim Keith told the board other districts have taken the same measure.
“This is very consistent with what other districts are doing,” Keith said. “These guidelines are consistent with the CDC guidelines at this time. We don’t know what they will be later on, but that’s what they are now.”
The quarantine and isolation requirements would be in effect for the rest of the school year.
Uselton later explained the reason behind the school district announcing classes would start Thursday two hours late as winter weather was expected.
However, the icy weather many thought would come stayed to the north. DeSoto County roads were mainly wet with few problems, despite temperatures being near the freezing mark for much of the day.
“We felt it would be best to have a two-hour late start because it appeared the weather would be moving in between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m.,” Uselton explained. “Normally we have to make a decision around 5:30 a.m. and with the way the weather forecast was, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to make a decision.”
The two-hour delay with the provision that classes would be canceled before 8 a.m. if it got worse gave school officials more time to watch the weather develop.
“We were fortunate that the winter weather was north of here, that the roads stayed in good shape this morning and that we were able to have school with the two-hour late start.” Uselton said.
With the two-hour late start followed by a regular school day, the district was also able to count Thursday as a school class day to meet state requirements.