The Agua Fria Union High School District began enforcing quarantine measures on Monday, but a spokesperson for the district stated it will not release data of the number of students in quarantine to the public.
The quarantine policy was implemented this week after the Maricopa County Health Department announced effective Monday, Aug. 23, certain students exposed to COVID-19 in public schools must quarantine.
Previously, students exposed to COVID-19 at AFUHSD schools were not required to stay home. Quarantine measures were enforced only for students the district learned had tested positive for COVID.
District teachers and staff are still not required to quarantine. Instead, staff will be provided a KN-95 mask if they are exposed to COVID.
The district wrote on its website it is committed to transparency when it announced the new quarantine guidelines last week. It will not, however, make public the number of students it has in quarantine.
“Given the variety of factors to determine why and when quarantine is required, quarantine projections and data is not available and will not be released,” district spokesperson Megan Griego told Independent Newsmedia over email.
Arizona school districts compiling and publicising quarantine data is not unheard of. Litchfield Elementary School District, a feeder district to Agua Fria, releases its quarantine numbers every Friday, along with weekly COVID cases. AFUHSD releases case numbers in real time on the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.
District leadership made the choice not to enforce quarantine measures until it was required by the county because leadership wanted to “provide the greatest level of support to help re-engage our students, staff, and families to the campus culture,” Griego said. “... the initial decision to not require quarantine when exposed via close contact was made in an effort to maximize the in-person learning experience...” she said, adding that the district offers an online academy for the roughly 150 students attending classes from home.
The district “committed to starting the school year off with as much normalcy as possible, while keeping the health and safety of students, staff and community at the forefront of our decisions,” Griego said.
The district has seen rising cases since the fall semester began Aug. 2.
The district reports 135 COVID cases as of Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. 122 reported cases are students and 13 are staff.
AFUHSD serves about 8,600 students across five high schools and two alternative programs located in Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Buckeye, Avondale, Waddell and parts of Glendale.
The district stated through Griego that its optional mask policy will remain in effect, but did not rule out the possibility of amending the policy in the future.
“At this time we are not considering a change to our mask protocols,” Griego said. “However, developments and safety recommendations related to the pandemic are ever changing. As such, our Covid-19 Protocols are subject to change.”
All students are required to have a mask in their possession while on campus.
Unvaccinated students who have come in “close contact” with a COVID-positive person are required to quarantine for a maximum of 10 days.
“After consultation with MCDPH and district legal counsel, Agua Fria UHSD has modified our Covid-19 protocols,” the district stated in an announcement last week.
“Close contact” is defined by county health officials as having been within 6 feet of a person with an active case of COVID for 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour-period.
Some students will not need to quarantine if they meet certain criteria.
Students who can provide proof of full vaccination or have tested positive for COVID in the past 90 days may immediately return to school in-person. Proof of vaccination or positive test can be submitted at http://submit.aguafria.org, according to the district announcement.
Additional guidance from the department of health states that students will not need to quarantine if they remained at least 3 feet away from a COVID-positve person, and both parties were wearing masks.
Any unvaccinated student who has had physical contact with a COVID-positive person will be required to quarantine, regardless if masks were worn, according to county health department rules.
Students who do not meet these exemptions will be required to quarantine for 10 days, but may be allowed to return after seven if they have not exhibited COVID symptoms and can provide a negative test taken a full five days from exposure.
Madeline Ackley can be reached at email@example.com or found on Twitter @Mkayackley.