School district returns to original 14-day quarantine plan

Lee Ann Murphy
Neosho Daily News Editor

One week after a change in plans on how to quarantine students with an exposure to COVID-19, the Neosho School District reverted to the original plan, one approved by DESE, the state department of education.

Last week, the Newton County Health Department issued guidelines stating that students who had been exposed to COVID-19 could still attend school and sports instead of quarantining for 14 days. Other school districts in Newton County followed suit. Diamond, East Newton, and Seneca announced they would follow the health department's advice rather than the state's recommendations.

Although plans called for students who had been exposed to be monitored, after a meeting on Sunday with school board members, area superintendents, state representatives, Newton County Health Department Director Larry Bergner and Adam Crumbliss, Director of the Divison of Community and Public Health in Missouri, Neosho reversed the decision.

In a letter issued by the Neosho School District to parents, notification that they would return to the 14-day quarantine was given.

"Starting Tuesday, September 22, the contact tracing team will go back to sending close contacts home for their quarantine. It is our hope that there is action at the state and national level to review the costs/benefits of the current policies. As of a week ago, in Missouri, there had been no deaths from Covid-19 in 0-17 year olds. However, we cannot measure the impact of the social pressure, emotional stress, nutritional void, educational loss, and other impacts this virus is having on our students when they are quarantined, or have to decide whether or not to get tested. We are thankful for the voices in our community that spoke up and promise to continue to weigh what is best for our students, staff, community, and the long-term success of NSD," read a portion of the letter.

The action brought statewide and national media attention that included an article in Newsweek magazine that incorrectly identified the area as being in southeastern Missouri.

At this time, the other districts continue with the health department recommendation.

This month, the number of active confirmed cases of COVID-19 have spiked in both Newton County and the surrounding area. In fact, a White House report named Missouri as ranking in the top 5 states for new COVID-19 cases.

The district's statement also said: "What started out as a quiet effort to determine if we could keep students in school without having a spike in positive cases, became a political issue. People within the medical community reached out in support of both sides of the matter; some saying to keep the students in school, others wanting to continue with the 14-day quarantine. Over the weekend, NSD issued a questionnaire to the 700+ district employees. As of Monday morning, 276 had responded. Of the respondents, 160 (58%) favored keeping the students in school rather than the 14-day quarantine. Of those with students in the school district, 63% favored keeping them in school. Overall, the feedback to the state representatives seemed to be similar; a small majority favoring the looser procedures. NSD feels as though there is support for the relaxed procedures, but not a mandate.

The Neosho School District has a great deal of momentum at this time with many positives occurring throughout the district. Now is not the time to bring unwanted attention upon the district. Dr. Cummins expressed gratitude for Mr. Bergner, the relaxed procedures and the other superintendents of Newton County for the work they have done."

The Neosho School District has placed a COVID tracker on their website under the parent resources tab with daily updates on the number of team members and students who tested posivitively for the virus and the number currently under quarantine for close contact. Detailed information about how the district handles any coronavirus cases is also available on the website. The full statement as well as other previous statements are also accessible there.