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RUSSIAVILLE — Western students and staff will have another quarantine option if they are identified as a close contact to someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

The Western School Board approved an in-school quarantine option Friday morning.

Effective immediately, a student or staff member who is considered a close contact to a positive case can remain in school if they wear a mask and are screened daily for 10 days. Daily screening includes a temperature check first thing in the morning when the person arrives.

For the in-school option to apply, students and staff must be and remain asymptomatic over the course of the 10-day period.

The measure aims to keep more kids in school — a near-universal goal among schools and parents, despite the polarization of the pandemic, masks and mitigation efforts.

Superintendent Katie Reckard said an in-school option gives parents more flexibility. Parents can choose between the in-school option, the typical 10-day quarantine or an eight-day quarantine with a negative test. There is also a 14-day quarantine option, though it is rarely used.

“This is something some other counties are doing and have had some success with it,” Reckard told the board.

The superintendent said parents reached out to board members about other quarantine options. It was also a point of discussion during meetings Reckard had with parents.

“It just came from listening to our parents and community,” she said.

Tipton and Tri-Central schools both approved an in-school quarantine option in October. Their updated policies also include a tiered policy where mitigation efforts are determined by positivity rates at each school building. If the positivity rate reaches a certain threshold, masks become required for all students at a Tipton or Tri-Central school building.

Reckard said case numbers didn’t justify Western moving to a tiered policy like Tipton, Tri-Central or Maconaquah.

“Our numbers are nowhere near what we had when we had the mask mandate,” she said.

Western adopted a mask requirement when the corporation recorded more student cases in less than a month than it did all first semester of last year. The requirement was repealed in October when case numbers dropped.

There were 20 student cases the week of Nov. 15, with 161 kids in quarantine. That’s an uptick compared to previous weeks, though fewer than the first few weeks of school before masks were required.

Positive cases fell this week to 11, with 113 students in quarantine.

Students can still participate in extracurricular activities if they elect for the in-school quarantine. They are required to wear a mask if they are not actively participating, such as sitting on the bench during a game.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.

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