Northampton schools will re-open with relaxed COVID-19 protocols

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By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton County Public Schools will handle COVID-19 mostly like other common illnesses, such as the cold or flu, when school starts next week.

Brittany Annon, NCPS nursing coordinator, said the school division will continue following COVID-19 guidelines provided by the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which were updated Aug. 11.

Quarantining after exposure to COVID-19 is no longer recommended. Neither is contact tracing recommended, as it “unintentionally violated HIPAA rights,” Annon said.

(The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA protects certain health information from being shared.)

For contact tracing purposes, “I had to know and notify someone else (of) someone’s medical condition. It is no longer an acceptable practice,” Annon explained. 

The school division’s updated health policy states any individuals entering NCPS buildings put themselves at “minimal risk” of exposure to conditions such as fever, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, head lice, rashes, pink eye, and now COVID-19.

Students with symptoms of COVID-19 should be kept home from school the same as if they had symptoms of any other illness.

According to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s COVID-19 recommendations based on VDH guidance, students who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate at home for five days before returning to school.

To protect student privacy, NCPS employees will not ask for a student’s medical diagnosis but will use the “honor system” and trust parents to follow the COVID-19 isolation guidance and keep kids home when they have symptoms of any illness.

Annon reminded listeners that before COVID-19, a doctor’s note excusing a child from school indicated the date the student could return to school, not the child’s diagnosis. 

She added that if the NCPS attendance policy is followed, a student will never become truant due to illness, which has been a concern of some parents.

Annon clarified that the updated health policy does not permit parents to send students with COVID-19 to school, but she acknowledged some parents flout the rules and send sick kids to school.

“We understand financial crises. We understand child care (issues). But the more you do to help us by keeping your child that is sick home, the faster they will get better,” she told parents.

Annon noted that returning students to school too soon after an illness results in “exposing others to more germs, and it’s going to get passed back and forth,” increasing the chance of the same students getting sick again.

Northampton schools’ COVID-19 mitigation strategies, in addition to staying home when feeling sick, include hand-washing, maintaining social distance as much as possible, and wearing masks when applicable.

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