Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

School adjusts mitigations to match CDC guidelines


April 8, 2021

The Haines Borough School District Board approved shortening quarantine periods for vaccinated students and staff at its meeting Tuesday.

Superintendent Roy Getchell suggested that vaccinated individuals that have been identified as close-contacts and are asymptomatic can return to school after receiving one negative test and quarantining for seven days.

For close-contacts who chose not to get tested, the quarantine requirement will be reduced from 14 days to 10 days. This applies to both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, but not COVID-19 positive individuals.

“The science would say that fourteen days is about 100 percent effective, and reducing the period is about 97 percent effective,” said Getchell. “This is negligible. That is the reason that the CDC has made these changes.”

Getchell said it is important to approve these changes as soon as possible, because it will help the school approach normalcy. He said about 60% of the school’s eligible students are signed up for the 16- and 17-year-old vaccine clinic.

According to Getchell, his proposals follow CDC guidelines. He said that it is very important that the school remains in sync with CDC recommendations.

Board member Michael Wald said that the suggestions were appropriate, but needed some clarity to ensure safety. Principal Lily Boron agreed and suggested making a flowchart that better explain the changes.

“These changes were run by our health advisory committee,” said Getchell before the board members voted. “It was also run by our school’s supporting doctors to get their feedback on how we should move forward, and they felt like these were good, responsible mitigations to amend.”

The Smart Start plan was approved unanimously.

The school board also briefly discussed the next school year’s calendar. Getchell proposed starting school a week later, on Aug. 24, to give students more opportunities to get vaccinated.

“Just like we’re having the vaccine clinic this week for teens, this summer there is an anticipated approval date in July for 12-year-olds,” Getchell said. “This would affect our middle school. So, for us to adjust our calendar to reflect that reality could be a game-changer for our students in regard to being in school.”

The Pfizer vaccine is a five-week process. By adjusting the calendar, students would have more time to complete vaccination process. This proposal was approved unanimously.

Getchell told the board that the school is trying to purchase a rapid testing system that gives immediate results and is 98% effective in detecting COVID-19 in both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.

Getchell said Sitka purchased this system and has already seen improvements. He said this will make activities safer and less restrictive. He also plans to use the testing system to help families who cannot afford to get tested.

There will be another board meeting in May to discuss adjusting the mitigation plans again for students attending summer school. The board members will also make a final decision about out-of-state travel for the wrestling and track state championships.


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