After a lively board discussion and public comment period, Milton School Board members approved changes to the district’s COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 academic year during their meeting Monday night.
Superintendent Rich Dahman presented the proposed changes to the board, which included a return to typical-sized classrooms, prepandemic locker use and two-way hallways, an end to mandatory wiping down of surfaces throughout the school day, and new contact tracing and quarantine procedures, among other changes.
“We will continue to monitor the situation during the spread of COVID variants and if those situations change,” Dahman explained. “We want to make sure we’re very clear that there may be some change in the situation and we certainly want to be able to adjust to those changes.”
Board member Leslie Hubert had concerns about the quarantine procedure if a student contracted COVID-19.
According to the proposal, unvaccinated students and vaccinated students showing COVID-19 symptoms must quarantine if they are a close contact of someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 as required by the Rock County Public Health Department. Proof of vaccination is required for asymptomatic contacts to stay out of quarantine. The standard length of a COVID-19 quarantine will be 10 days, but students with a negative COVID-19 test on day six of a quarantine may return after seven days. If students cannot isolate from a positive case, quarantine may exceed 10 days.
Hubert worried these practices could cause division between students.
“My concern is with quarantining and contact tracing,” she said. “I don’t feel that vaccine status should be a factor in quarantining. If we’re going to ask students to quarantine when showing symptoms, it should be the same for every student.
“Why would six days be better for a vaccinated person versus an unvaccinated person given that there have been cases where vaccinated people have contracted COVID? My concern would be creating that division and highlighting those who have been vaccinated or unvaccinated.”
Hubert tried to make a motion to amend the wording of the proposal but was denied by board President Michael Hoffman because he said it would “change the nature of the motion that has been made.”
Board member Rick Mullen said it wouldn’t be fair to make asymptomatic, vaccinated students quarantine because of a close contact because families chose to have students vaccinated to avoid such a scenario.
Hubert then asked Mullen if allowing them not to quarantine would “elevate” vaccinated students over unvaccinated ones, to which Mullen said he was not, which elicited a loud response from those watching the meeting.
In the end, the board voted 6-1 to approve the changes, effective Aug. 1. Hubert was the only “no” vote.
Before the discussion, many parents voiced their opinion during the public comment period.
“I feel like our administration has brought us to the 10-yard line but needs to push us to the end zone on these protocols,” Tracy Hannah, a parent of a son going into Milton Middle School, said. “The area I truly have questions and concerns with is the contact tracing, quarantine bullet point that reads simply ‘RCHD requires contact tracing and quarantine for close contacts.’ The protocol change document does not state Milton’s position on this. It is just the statement, nothing more.”
Another parent urged the board to take its time with the decision.
“Each of you seven board members spend a fair amount of time on this board,” John Dummer said. “ If you do vote on this tonight, can you say with 100% conviction that you are ready to go? If the answer’s no, I ask that you do whatever you need to do to push this off to next week. It’s far too important for our kids and our community to vote before you are ready.”