GCPS Announces Changes to the Recovery Plan Due to Optional Face Coverings (Masks)

As indicated in previous press releases, face-coverings will be optional effective 3/1/2022 for all schools, GCPS buildings, and transportation. As a result of this action, GCPS is reviewing other components of the GCPS Reopening and Recovery Plan that are directly impacted by the face-covering decision and the most recent CDC guidelines. As such, GCPS is proposing changes to the Reopening and Recovery Plan while also emphasizing the strategies that will continue or be enhanced as detailed below. As a general theme, it is important to stress that GCPS intends to focus its efforts around identifying symptomatic individuals and offering testing options for students and staff in addition to a wide array of other mitigating strategies to reduce and/or prevent the spread of COVID 19. GCPS is proposing to change, continue, or enhance the following mitigation strategies:

GCPS will follow the most recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance published on 2/28/2022 that states that universal contact tracing is not recommended for COVID-19.

GCPS highly encourages parents and guardians to follow the CDC recommendations for contact tracing should their child test positive for COVID 19. It is recommended that contact be made with any individual that has been in close contact with their child while prioritizing individuals who have an increased risk of severe health outcomes.

GCPS will enforce quarantining for those students who live in the same household as an individual who has tested positive through the GCPS diagnostic testing program due to the high risk associated with household contacts (ex: siblings). An individual who has updated vaccinations and is asymptomatic or provides documented evidence of having COVID 19 in the last 90 days will not be required to quarantine.

GCPS will explore a notification system through PowerSchool that will notify parents via an email form letter of known possible exposure to promote increased monitoring for symptoms.

GCPS highly recommends that any individuals returning from quarantine after day 5 follow the CDC guidance specific to wearing a well-fitted face-covering from day 6-10.

GCPS intends to adjust the Reopening and Recovery Plan to further clarify that face-coverings are optional for extracurricular activities, physical education, music, and any other area that had specialized face-covering rules in place.

GCPS will place an increased focus on identifying individuals (students and staff) with COVID-like symptoms.

Parents are highly encouraged to have a heightened awareness when monitoring their child for symptoms and keep their child home if symptomatic.

If a student shows COVID-like symptoms at school, they will be sent to the nurse for evaluation. Students who can wear a face-covering while being assessed in the health room will be required to do so.

If the student has an alternative diagnosis or negative COVID test, parents are encouraged to communicate this with the nurse.
Schools will continue to offer diagnostic testing with parent written permission.

Students will be permitted to return to class with an alternative diagnosis or confirmed negative COVID 19 test. A rapid test will be accepted.
Students who display COVID-like symptoms and do not have an alternative diagnosis or negative test will be sent home.
Staff is expected to stay home if they are displaying COVID-like symptoms and get tested.

GCPS will continue implementing isolation for those who have COVID-like illness or who have tested positive for COVID 19. Please reference the currently approved plan for a complete list of requirements specific to isolation. A few reminders are listed below along with one proposed revision specific to participating in high-risk activities upon return from isolation.

Individuals who participate in sports, band, or other high-risk activities such as singing or physical activity, will be unable to participate for an additional 5 days unless the individual can safely wear a face-covering and ensure social distancing of at least 6 feet.

Individuals are permitted to return to school after five full days of isolation if symptoms have improved.

Individuals must be able to wear a well-fitted face-covering for days 6-10 upon return.

Individuals have the option of completing 10-day isolation, should they be unable to wear a well-fitted face-covering for days 6-10.

GCPS will also continue to implement the following mitigating strategies:
Random temperature checks
Teaching and reinforcing handwashing and respiratory etiquette
Social distancing of 3 feet or more to the greatest extent possible
Ensure daily cleaning and disinfecting of spaces
Provide hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes throughout all facilities
Collaborate with the Garrett County Health Department to provide and promote opportunities for vaccination
Encourage all those who can be vaccinated to do so
Ensure enhanced ventilation systems throughout the school district (i.e., Phase 2 of enhancing the ventilation systems is complete)
Provide screening and diagnostic COVID testing ~ Permission forms for diagnostic testing can be found on the GCPS website under the COVID Dashboard
Ask that parents and staff conduct daily health screenings for symptoms and stay home when displaying symptoms or feeling ill
Ensure face-coverings will are available as needed

Garrett County Public Schools is committed to implementing a wide range of strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID 19, including monitoring current data and collaborating closely with the Garrett County Health Department on best practices. Moreover, GCPS will be soliciting feedback on the proposed changes detailed above through specific stakeholder focus groups over the next few days.

Feedback on the proposed changes may also be emailed to reopening.plan@garrettcountyschools.org.