Jan. 10, 2022
Dear Poudre School District community,
As the considerable rise in Omicron cases impacts our county and schools, public health guidance continues to change. In this update, we will address what staffing shortages may mean for district operations; public health changes to guidelines for quarantine, isolation and exemption from quarantine; and a county health department change to contact tracing COVID cases.
Our district remains resolute in our commitment to in-person learning. That said, we want to be transparent about our significant, daily staffing challenges. In PSD last week, there were 40 custodians and 21 Transportation staff out on one day – numbers that nearly impacted our ability to provide these services. At 6:30 a.m. Monday, there were 274 employee absences across the district, and that rose to 317 within three hours. Getting substitutes to cover during a sub shortage is particularly difficult, as one example.
We have and continue to do everything we can to maintain in-person learning, planning proactively to cover open positions. At the same time, we may need to shift classes, programs, grade levels or even entire schools to remote learning. This could be due to the number of staff and student absences (COVID or illness symptoms) or a lack of staff needed to ensure we have enough caring, trained adults with our students. To be clear: We do NOT want to shift our entire district to remote learning and are being intentional with this targeted approach.
Please know that we will communicate shifts to remote learning as soon as possible but that these could occur with little notice. Learn more about PSD’s expectations for remote learning at every school >>
Overview of federal, state and local protocols for schools: We know that some have felt confused by ever-changing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE). It is worth noting that the majority of our protocols have not changed. Here are some highlights of the new adjustments, with more detailed information available below:
- The length of quarantine AND isolation time has been shortened to five days, with individuals able to return on day six if their symptoms are improved.
- Guidelines for exemption from quarantine due to vaccination status are updated.
- Individuals who test positive for COVID in the past 90 days ARE exempt from quarantine. The CDC originally said this was not the case, but later reinstituted that guidance.
- The county health department has asked school districts to prioritize contact tracing for high-risk COVID cases only due to high volumes of current cases and limited resources.
Updated isolation guidance: Last week, the CDC clarified that the shortened isolation guidance should apply to PK-12 schools. Larimer County health officials are aligned with this adjustment.
- Staff and students who test positive for COVID should receive orders from LCDHE to isolate from school settings for five days.
- If they are asymptomatic or all symptoms are improving, they can join in regular public activities (e.g. go to grocery store) and return to school on day six.
- Please don’t return to school earlier than day six and only if all symptoms are improving (count the first day of symptoms as day 0).
- Any students and staff who are unable to wear a mask around others due to an approved medical mask exemption, should isolate or quarantine for the full 10 days and may return to school on day 11.
- Guidelines are different for what you are required to do if a member of your household tests positive versus if your student is exposed to a positive case at school.
- Exposure within a household will lead to quarantines greater than five days if people in the household are unable to isolate from the positive individual, unable to wear masks, and unable to eat and sleep in separate rooms. We understand that this may not be possible in some households, especially those with young children.
- If additional household members test positive or become symptomatic, that exposure and return date will likely change due a new exposure.
Change to definition of immunization and quarantine exemption: CDC also updated its guidance to clarify eligible ages requiring boosters to be considered exempt from quarantine. With this update, those under 18 are not required to have booster shots to be considered exempt from quarantine for school-related exposures. They just need to be two weeks past their second dose. Boosters continue to be required of those 18 or older to be exempt from quarantine.
- It is no longer enough to be “fully vaccinated” to be exempted from quarantine. Only close contacts to a positive case who have met one of the following criteria are exempted from quarantine, according to new CDPHE guidance:
- You are aged 18 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
- You are age 5-17 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.
- You had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days.
Change to contact tracing: Please see this letter that the health department asked PSD to share with our communities (Español LCDHE letter). LCDHE has recommended that all schools discontinue contact tracing and quarantines for routine classroom exposures. Contact tracing is no longer possible the way we’ve been doing it because of test result delays, an increase in the county’s case volume and our districts’ need to have staff focus on filling shortages to prioritize in-person learning. High-risk exposures, as defined by the county health department, will continue to be traced. PSD will discontinue routine contact tracing effective immediately. Case information will continue to be available on the PSD COVID-19 Data Dashboards.
Your partnership and support is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your assistance as we work together to help maximize in-person learning opportunities for each of our students.
Poudre School District
Larimer County Department of Health and Environment
Note: This message does not apply to PSD-authorized charter schools, which manage their own operations. Families of PSD-authorized charters should contact their school directly with questions.