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Webster schools update COVID-19 guidelines as students return to campus amid omicron surge

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(Getty Images)

WEBSTER PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Students in Webster Parish schools will not be required to wear masks when they return to class after the winter break Tuesday, but the school district is implementing shortened quarantine guidelines recommended by the Louisiana Department of Health.

“As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surges in our communities, the Webster Parish School Board strives for a safe return to school as it resumes on January 4, 2022,” the school district said in a Facebook post late Monday afternoon as the state continues to report a surge in COVID-18 cases driven by the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“Updated guidance has been released by the Louisiana Department of Health to assist schools and families in staying safe. The Louisiana Department of Health and the Webster Parish School Board STRONGLY encourage the wearing of masks in school buildings.”

Masks are still required to be worn on all school buses, as it is a federal mandate, and the district says they will continue to implement mitigation measures such as social distancing and extensive cleaning as well as following all CDC/LDH quarantine protocols.

The shortened quarantine protocol option is for students and staff who test positive and includes updated guidance for both vaccinated and unvaccinated close contacts. Those guidelines say persons receiving a positive diagnosis should:

  • Stay home for (5) days.
  • After (5) days, you may return if symptoms are resolved.
  • If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.
  • Once you return, continue to wear a mask for (5) days.

Below is a Louisiana Department of Health flowchart shared by the district on screening for symptomatic individuals for the state’s K-12 schools and daycares:

May be an image of text that says 'COVID-19 Screening Decision Tree Responding oa Symptomatic ndividual- 12.30. 2021 K-12 Daycare: 生 symptoms Home lospital Orleans School solation Room PIckS Get COVID-19 COVID- individual. e breath Positive Negative Test COVID-19 Test Gives with School COVID-19 Screening Decision Tree for K-12 & Daycare: Responding to Cl 12.30.2021 Close Contact Quarantine 5days. CMCHealth Quae.if DEPARTMENTO HEALTH CLOSE.CONTACT Guidance )Positive Test Strongly Recommend: Negative Positive Test Orleans VirtualC fQuarantined returnto'

The updated guidance comes after Gov. John Bel Edwards and other health officials last Thursday offered updated “new, strong recommendations” on what schools should do as the Omicron variant surges through Louisiana.

Those recommendations also include suspending extracurricular activities and reviewing cafeteria seating to improve social distancing.

As of Monday evening, only the Natchitoches Parish School District had opted to temporarily reinstate mask requirements in local schools. Masking will remain optional in Bossier schools and they say athletics will not be suspended, although Return to Play guidelines following a positive case or exposure to a close contact have changed. Caddo Parish Public Schools resumed classes Monday, but the district has not yet released any updates to its COVID-19 guidelines.

Louisiana State University Shreveport announced Monday that students will spend at least the first two weeks of the 2022 Spring Semester attending classes virtually. The LSU system plans to allow classes to resume in-person after two weeks if the community and campus COVID-10 positivity rates drop below 10 percent.

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