Stanislaus schools update COVID quarantine policies. What will change?

Patty Guerra/
·2 min read

Stanislaus County schools are changing quarantine policies for students exposed to COVID-19 as cases increase sharply throughout the community.

Among the updates, schools may notify entire classrooms of an exposure to COVID-19 rather than only identifying students within six feet of the person who tested positive. Students who are exposed may in some cases stay in school and participate in extracurricular activities if they don’t develop symptoms.

Ceres Unified School District began implementing the policies Friday, spokeswoman Beth Parker Jimenez said by email. Turlock Unified School District and Modesto City Schools plan to enact the changes Tuesday, following the Martin Luther King Day holiday Monday.

The districts are following guidance released by the California Department of Public Health. Isolation periods for when a person tests positive for COVID-19 were updated previously to be as short as five days with a negative test and no symptoms.

Stanislaus public health spokeswoman Kamlesh Kaur said the quarantine policies are meant to keep students in school as much as possible. Public health officials met with school officials Thursday and Friday, Kaur said.

The state’s guidance gives districts a choice between two overarching options to follow. Parents who want to know more should ask their children’s schools.

The local Health Services Agency is not recommending policies beyond those offered by the state, Kaur confirmed. The new policies distinguish between exposures at school and at home, Kaur said.

A new option gives school officials a simpler way to conduct contact tracing, which could mean that students learn they were exposed to the virus more quickly.

Schools may choose to notify groups of students, such as entire classes or teams, instead of contact tracing to identify people within six feet of the person who tested positive.

Under this approach, students who are part of an exposed group may continue attending school and participate in extracurricular activities if they don’t have symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status or a previous infection. They should get tested three to five days after they were exposed, the state’s guidance says.

Ceres Unified and Turlock Unified will follow this “group-tracing” method. Modesto City Schools did not provide details Friday on how the district will carry out quarantine policies.

In Ceres, families of students who are part of an exposed group will now be notified by the end of the day, Jimenez said.

Ceres Unified reported about 280 Covid-19 cases Jan. 4-7, according to a dashboard posted Thursday. Turlock Unified confirmed over 150 Covid-19 cases among students and staff in the first week back from winter break. In Modesto City Schools, daily case counts indicate almost 380 students and staff tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

Emily Isaacman is the equity reporter for The Bee's community-funded Economic Mobility Lab, which features a team of reporters covering economic development, education and equity.

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