Students climb off the bus (copy)

Students climb off the bus and walk into Washington High School wearing face coverings Monday, Aug. 24. 

The Washington School Board debated a resolution at its meeting last Wednesday that would have asked the Franklin County Health Department to develop more options for the school district’s COVID-19 quarantine policy. The board tabled the resolution in a 4-3 vote.

Under current guidelines, a maskless, unvaccinated student exposed to someone with COVID-19 would have to quarantine at home for at least seven days but could return to school without a mask on the eighth day if he or she tests negative on the fifth, sixth or seventh day. Alternatively, those students could simply quarantine for 10 days without being tested. Vaccinated students or those who have already had COVID-19 in the previous 90 days and recovered do not have to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with the virus so long as they do not develop symptoms of COVID-19 in the 14 days after exposure. Students wearing a mask also do not have to quarantine if they are exposed so long as the infected person they were exposed to was wearing a mask and they do not develop signs or symptoms of COVID-19 in the 14 days after exposure. 

These are three of the four options developed for the parents of the Washington School District and districts around the state by a coalition of county health departments, including the Franklin County Health Department, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The board rejected the fourth option in October, which would have allowed students to test three times to stay in class. Union R-XI, St. Clair R-XIII, New Haven and Meramec Valley R-III have all adopted the fourth option, which is called “test to stay.”

The resolution debated Wednesday would have asked the Franklin County Health Department, as part of the coalition, to develop more options.

School board members Kevin Blackburn and Dan Leslie supported the resolution because they said they were unhappy with the existing options. 

Board members Jason Oesterly and Matt Wilson took a different stance.

Oesterly said he didn’t feel comfortable telling medical professionals how they should do their jobs, and he said he felt the resolution implied that the health department wasn’t searching for good policy options when he felt it was. 

Wilson said he felt like the health department was doing its due diligence in searching for options.

“Our county health department is in contact with the city health department, the CDC. They’re in contact with the governor’s office,” Wilson said. “They’ve given us options. They’re trying to call for more. If we don’t like it, that’s on us.”

“I don’t think they set out to set this procedure in a way that’s unsatisfactory to us,” Oesterly added. “They’re trying to do the best they can for the districts yet balancing the health side.”

Leslie asked Oesterly what he would change about the resolution.

“I would delete it,” Oesterly said.

Board President John Freitag said that although they could have passed the resolution with a majority vote, he didn’t think the board should go forward on the resolution without everyone on board. For this reason, he proposed the board table the matter.