Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Clayton Holland speaks during a board meeting on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Clayton Holland speaks during a board meeting on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

School district allows some COVID-positive staff, students return after 5 days

The policy mirrors new CDC guidance on the issue

Beginning Wednesday, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District staff and students who test positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to return to school five days after testing positive if they have not experienced symptoms during those five days. That’s according to new district guidance announced by KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland during the district board of education’s Monday night meeting and in response to updated recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the new guidelines, a KPBSD student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 but has not experienced any symptoms for the first five days after testing positive, will be allowed to return to school or work as long as they wear a well-fitted face covering. When someone cannot wear a face covering, such as when eating or drinking, they should maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from other people to the extent possible. Student athletes must, in addition to those protocols, continue daily symptom check protocols.

If a student or staff member develops symptoms of COVID-19 during the five-day period after they test positive, they must continue to stay home and isolate. Symptomatic students or staff who test positive for COVID-19 can return to school or work 10 days after testing positive or 10 days after the onset of symptoms. Individuals returning must be fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.

The protocol may be revised in the coming weeks, a district release said, as KPBSD continues to work with public health.

Holland said during Monday’s board meeting that the district’s symptom-free protocol will be key to making the new protocols work and that people should be aware of the potential impacts of the omicron COVID-19 variant, such as staffing shortages, which could require some schools to pivot to remote learning.

“We’re certainly hoping that does not happen, but we have to get that out there that there’s a possibility that it could occur,” Holland said during Monday’s board meeting.

The district most recently tweaked its COVID-19 policies about a month ago, when it was announced that close contacts could immediately return to school or work. In those cases, close contacts must wear a face mask for 10 days, remain symptom free and have two negative COVID-19 test results, with the first test taken on the first day after being identified as a close contact or first day of return to school and the second test taken between days five and seven.

The district announced last week that free in-person COVID-19 tests are available for district students, staff and family members through partnerships in Seward and Soldotna. In Soldotna, free COVID testing is available at Soldotna Professional Pharmacy by appointment only. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 907-714-1603. In Seward, free testing is available at Glacier Family Medicine Clinic from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Appointments are preferred and can be made by calling 907-224-8733. Those looking to be tested should indicate that they are being tested for the school district so that the pharmacy does not charge insurance.

A separate clinic is offered at Soldotna High School on Mondays and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Testing is available by appointment and can be scheduled by calling 907-714-1603. Those testing should tell the nurse if they or their student are a close contact, as well as whether they are symptomatic and what school they are from.

Those getting tested at the Soldotna clinic should park in the handicapped parking spots on the Marydale Avenue side of the school and wait for a nurse to come out to them. Parents or guardians will be asked to fill out a consent form and should plan to stay until test results are back.

The district has emphasized a “layered” COVID mitigation strategy since the beginning of the school year that includes social distancing to the extent possible, bipolar ionization disinfection of air through buildings’ HVAC systems and a continuation of hygiene etiquette, such as frequent hand-washing.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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