As the Paris Special School District adjusts to students learning entirely from their homes and works toward a return to normal instruction by the target date of Nov. 30, new rules are being implemented on when students and faculty that have to quarantine are able to return to school.
With new positive COVID-19 cases within PSSD schools piling on by a rate of 20 a day since Nov. 6, the West Tennessee Regional Health Department is now requiring that any person in quarantine cannot immediately return to their school if they receive a negative COVID-19 test.
If someone tests positive, they must stay in quarantine for a full 10 days even if they test negative within that time. Anyone who comes in proximity of somebody who has tested positive must quarantine for 14 days and anyone living with a person who tests positive must quarantine for 24 days.
The regional health department is also asking the PSSD not to do rapid COVID-19 testing and to only administer full virus tests.
Director of Schools Norma Gerrell says the rapid tests take about 15 minutes to have a result ready, compared to an average turnaround of 24 hours for full tests.
Gerrell shared during Tuesday night’s PSSD board meeting that 96 school employees have had to quarantine for some extent of time because of COVID and, as it stands now, the PSSD does not have enough employees to continue in-person schooling effectively.
With total active positive cases in the area sitting well over 200, Gerrell says the PSSD will have to see how many employees reach out and say they, or someone close to them, has tested positive over the course of the next two weeks.
Gerrell has had about 10 adult employees say they plan to return to work when schools reopen on Nov. 30 and three others notify her that they will not be coming back on that day.
Gerrell and Troy Barrow, board chairman, both said that teachers have done extremely well teaching from home and ask for grace and patience as they continue to figure things out.
Bus drivers have remained busy during this new school schedule, delivering 593 lunches to more than 300 homes since Monday, according to Gerrell. These drivers are also delivering work packets to students in kindergarten through 2nd grade, which has been tedious for teachers to create and sort.
It was announced during the meeting that 400 new laptops will be coming for Rhea Elementary School in January. The board also approved budget amendments for new cafeteria equipment at Paris Elementary School and Inman Middle School, including ovens, refrigeration units and warmers.