Saugus district receives approval for hybrid quarantine, testing protocols

The Saugus Union School District office. Dan Watson/The Signal

Following the announcement of another change in L.A. County Public Health Department protocols for campuses last week, the Saugus Union School District informed parents that they would be taking an approved “hybrid” route as it pertains to quarantine and testing following a student’s possible exposure to COVID-19.  

In their latest update, posted on Dec. 31 and further clarified on Jan. 4, Public Health Department officials stated that persons exempt from quarantine following confirmation of a close contact would be persons who have received the booster or are fully vaccinated but are not yet eligible for the booster.  

“In order to remain in school, close contacts who are exempt from quarantine are required to test.,” read the update. “At a minimum, the test specimen must be collected on Day 5 after the date of last exposure.” 

Additionally, even those exempt from quarantine due to a close contact exposure, would need to be monitored and assured to be asymptomatic. Those who do not fall under the exempt list — described as persons who are not fully vaccinated or persons who are fully vaccinated and booster eligible but have not yet received their additional jab — would be quarantined away from in-person learning for 10 days, or five days after their last known exposure provided they have a negative test after a full five days. 

In response to the policy updates, the Saugus Union School District advocated for a different plan of action for their students and staff, and L.A. County Public Health subsequently approved the request.  

“Because of our concerns with keeping healthy (no symptoms) students in school, SUSD leadership advocated for and received approval for implementation of a hybrid of the current protocols and the newly proposed protocols to ensure that everyone is healthy and kids can attend learning at school,” read a letter sent to SUSD parents. “Please understand that none of the steps in this hybrid puts people at additional risk of illness, but it does allow students who are not ill/asymptomatic to attend school.” 

“A test to stay” was how Saugus Union Superintendent Colleen Hawkins described the plan on Wednesday, with the hybrid model, regardless of a person’s vaccination status, being allowed to stay on campus, even if deemed as a close exposure, if they are both asymptomatic and can show a negative test.  

A negative test must be provided by the partially vaccinated and unvaccinated on Day 1 following possible close contact, while a fully vaccinated individual who is symptom-free may provide a test on Day 5, and will be allowed to stay on campus between Days 1 and 5.  

For those who have been deemed to be a close contact and have remained asymptomatic with a negative test, they will be required to wear a mask both indoors and outdoors, unless eating or drinking, for the entire 10-day period since their last exposure.  

“Remember that close contact is defined as within 6 feet of a positive case for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period or direct contact with bodily fluids of an individual who has tested positive for COVID in their infectious period,” read the SUSD letter. “Parents/guardians of close contacts will be notified separately via Parent Square.” 

“This is a ‘test negative to stay’ protocol for those who are close contacts,” the statement added. “If there is not participation in the required testing protocol, the student must participate in the full 10-day quarantine and will be assigned to the District’s STISS (short-term independent study school) for digital learning for the 10-day period.” 

The district stated on Wednesday that it expects a number of rapid antigen tests from the state and county health departments to be delivered to campuses by the end of the week.  

“We know that our current protocols will help mitigate the spread of illness and allow more students to remain in on-campus learning,” the letter from Hawkins concluded. “Should you have questions following the notifications via Parent Square, please contact your child(ren)’s school site.” 

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