As Santa Clarita Valley school districts enter their second month of school, district officials continue to review and implement updated COVID-19 safety protocols set by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
“As we opened our schools, we were able to open them very differently this year,” said Michelle Barries, assistant superintendent of student support services, during a Saugus Union School District governing board meeting earlier in August. “Many of those restrictions have reduced but they haven’t gone away. That can be said about COVID, as it has not gone completely.”
Barries reminded the Saugus district governing board as well as parents in attendance that school districts must follow the rules set and enforced by Public Health. The agency last updated its COVID-19 protocols for schools on Aug. 11.
School districts are required to notify the health agency when there are three or more linked COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period.
Districts must also notify a community regarding isolation instructions for a COVID-19 positive case, instructions for close contacts of COVID-19 positive individuals and when there are COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths.
“We are currently using, what I call, individual contact tracing, or we’re using this when students are closer than 6 feet apart,” Barries said. “So, it’s not the entire classroom. Anybody who has close contact needs to be notified that there was a positive case, then the entire class needs a notification that there was a positive case in the class.”
According to Public Health, students and employees must test with a COVID-19 diagnostic viral test such as a PCR or a rapid antigen test, which can be over-the-counter or at-home tests, though PCR tests are considered to be the most accurate test for COVID-19.
Positive cases must test on day 5, and recur until they test negative if they wish to return to campus sooner, or just wait until day 11. Close contacts must test once between day 3-5 of being around a possible positive case, and test negative, before coming back onto campus.
According to Barries, this is a shorter period than it was in the last school year.
Close contacts must wear mask indoors through day 10 of the exposure. Close contacts must also be asymptomatic and have a negative COVID-19 test to remain on campus.
“This is different from where before you had to test to stay, but that’s not a requirement, but you must be negative in order to be on campus,” Barries said. “Our only masking requirements right now is if you are a close contact and you need to wear that mask through day 10.”
Public Health also expanded its mask exemptions for students who are unable to wear them such as 2-year-old children and younger, students with hearing impairments, or when communication with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication or students with a medical, mental health condition or disability.
“A certification from a state-licensed health care provider attesting that the student has a condition or disability that precludes them from wearing a mask safely will be accepted as proof of exemption,” reads the Public Health order.