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Mars Area superintendent recommends removing most COVID-19 protocols

ADAMS TWP — Mars Area Superintendent Mark Gross recommended that the district remove most COVID-19 protocols, including contact tracing, livestreaming and social distancing, for the upcoming 2022-23 school year at a meeting Tuesday night.

Gross said his proposals for changes were in response to the Aug. 11 change in recommendations from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which removed guidelines for quarantining for individuals who were exposed to COVID and remained asymptomatic.

The district must update its health and safety plan, last updated in April 2022, every six months. Gross’ recommendations will be presented to the district’s safety committee, which is made up of a cross section of community members, teachers, internal staff, board members and administrators.

The committee will discuss the recommendations from Gross and develop proposed changes to the plan next week. The changes will be brought to the school board for a vote at a special board meeting later this month, Gross said.

“My recommendation is going to be to totally revert to pre-COVID protocols,” Gross said at the meeting. “The only thing we would like to do is only those things that are mandated. We would discontinue contact tracing, and we would also discontinue any type of social distancing requirements. Basically, everything would go back to pre-COVID.”

Proposed changes

Gross said that contact tracing took up “an inordinate amount of time” and argued that now is the time to reexamine it.

He added that parents would still be notified by the school if a student tested positive in their child’s classroom or school bus, but the warnings would not be connected to the six-foot proximity anymore.

“I think we have the duty to warn a parent, should they have major concerns. They may have a family member or someone who is very susceptible,” Gross said. “We should at least be, to the best of our ability, saying ‘we’ve had a case,’ so they can monitor their children.”

The district would also discontinue livestreaming classes to students who are sick at home with COVID-19.

COVID would largely be treated the same as any other illness, Gross explained. COVID-19 test results also would no longer be required to be sent to the school.

“Basically, if someone is ill, whether it’s COVID or the flu or a sinus infection, if they’re home, we’ll make sure their assignments are posted and that they have the ability to make up the work,” Gross said. “We’re not going to be livestreaming into classrooms anymore. We’re not going to be forcing quarantines anymore.”

Students would be expected to attend school if they are not ill, Gross said.

“Unless you are ill, you’d be expected to come in, because even the CDC is not recommending people who are close contacts quarantine unless they are symptomatic,” Gross said.

Gross said the school district still would send a weekly report of positive COVID-19 cases to the Department of Education, as that is mandated. He added that it would be up to the safety committee as to whether to continue sharing case counts publicly.

“Ultimately, that committee will have to discuss our recommendations and either agree, tweak or disagree,” he said. “These are just recommendations at this time, but my personal goal is to get the committee to agree with us to allow us to get back to normal.”