Maryville City Schools says it can no longer quarantine COVID positive students

Schools will no longer isolate positive students and school nurses will no longer recommend testing.
The policy explained that if a student tested positive for COVID-19, they can stay in school. If a student is positive and has symptoms, they will be sent home.
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 4:04 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2022 at 12:19 AM EST
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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Maryville City Schools will no longer isolate asymptomatic students that test positive for COVID-19, according to an update from the school system released prior to winter break.

The decision follows a piece of legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly during a special assembly. The legislation limits what schools can and cannot do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff. According to the legislation, “a local health entity or official, mayor, governmental entity, or school does not have the authority to quarantine a person or private business for purposes of COVID-19.”

However, that same piece of legislation hit a snag in November of 2021 when a federal judge blocked it from being enforced after families from Williamson, Knox and Shelby counties sued state officials out of concern for their children. This means that the choice to not enforce quarantines is currently in the hands of local school boards.

Schools are also not allowed to “exclude kids specifically due to a COVID diagnosis/test result,” according to the district update to parents from Maryville City Schools.

This means that when a student in the Maryville City School system tests positive for COVID-19, school officials will no longer automatically enforce a quarantine. Instead, school officials will “share that the [Tennessee Department of Health] recommends but does not require quarantine.”

According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 may be a driving force in the virus’ spread. Someone with COVID-19 can be contagious for days before they show symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The school system will still honor cases where parents or guardians elect to quarantine their student, however. The school system will also keep some existing policies in place for symptomatic students, including those with COVID-19.

“Students and staff exhibiting symptoms will continue to be excluded from school just as we would for the flu,” the MCS update to parents said.

Maryville City Schools officials released a follow-up district update on Jan. 3, where they further clarified the school system’s COVID-19 policy. According to the update, not only will the school system no longer require quarantine for asymptomatic positive cases, but school nurses will no longer recommend to parents that they have to get their child tested.

“Neither the schools nor the clinics will diagnose COVID or suggest a preponderance of COVID symptoms,” the update said. “In addition, they will not suggest or recommend testing. It will be the personal decision of the family to seek testing.”

The update also covered the school system’s policy on COVID-19 absences. Absences will only be listed as COVID-related if parents or guardians elect to get their child tested and submit it to the school system. However, parents will not be required to submit a positive test to receive an excused absence.

WVLT News reached out to representatives for the Tennessee Department of Education for further clarification.

“Because the special session legislation is a matter of ongoing litigation, school districts must work with their local board attorneys to determine action in compliance with current law, court orders, and TN Department of Health Emergency rules,” TDOE Director of Media Brian Blackley said.

A representative from MCS, Sharon Anglim, told WVLT News that the policy decision was made in order to be compliant with the new legislation. Prior to the legislation going into affect, Anglim said, asymptomatic, COVID-positive students would have quarantined with their families, per the Department of Health.

Those interested in reading MCS’ district updates in full can do so here and here.

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