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Educators voice concerns after DeWine changes state's quarantine policies for students, staff

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Posted at 10:35 PM, Jan 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 09:56:18-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday the state will be moving away from in-classroom quarantine policies for those exposed to COVID-19 in the classroom.

“The quicker that we can get vaccinated and have every adult in the building vaccinated to make it safe, the quicker we can get our kids back in the building,” said Sean Belveal of the Northeast Ohio College Preparatory High School.

DeWine said students and teachers exposed to a COVID-positive person in a classroom setting no longer have to quarantine, as long as everyone in the classroom was wearing a mask and protocols were followed during exposure.

Several educators told News 5 they want to be back in the classroom with their students, but at what cost?

“The fact that we are doing it simply as our state and not with national or international CDC guidelines makes me quite concerned,” said Shari Obrenski of the Cleveland Teachers Union.

The CDC currently advises any student who was exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine at home for two weeks and participate in virtual learning.

“We can't ignore the science. That removal of quarantine, it makes me uncomfortable because I don't know the science of it,” Bonnie Monteleone said. “But at the same time, I understand where the governor is coming from.”

DeWine is bypassing that measure after a month-long study focused on various districts throughout the state.

“A little bit of trepidation, a little bit of fear,” Belveal said. “Not really understanding why we are following CDC guidelines and then we're not following CDC guidelines.”

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Chief Medical Officer with the Ohio Department of Health, said in that study there was no discernible difference in the infection rate among students who were exposed to the virus in a classroom and those who were not—but educators have concerns.

“To separate out just one section of our society and say, ‘No, everything needs to follow CDC guidelines except for schools,’ I think is quite frankly a dangerous step,” Obrenski said.

Monetleone said the new policy puts teachers between a rock and a hard place.

“It does make me nervous about who's making the decision about whether or not the masks were worn and these other pieces are in place. I worry about my colleagues being put on the spot,” Monteleone said. “Do I tell that the kid did drop their mask? Do I reveal that some kids don't want to sneeze into their mask?”

As the holiday break comes to a close, the new guidance from the governor is top-of-mind for faculty.

“That was just a little disconcerting,” Obrenski said. “I felt like it just really flew under the radar and that a lot of folks aren't going to be grappling with it until after we return from break.”

The change in quarantine policy does not apply to extracurricular activities, including sports. Students who have been exposed to COVID-19 must still quarantine from these activities, according to DeWine.

RELATED: Students exposed to COVID-positive student in classroom no longer need to quarantine, Gov. DeWine says

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