RPS revisits masking rules and suspends contact tracing for K-12 students | Coronavirus


ROCHESTER, Minnesota – A pair of important pandemic updates are coming from Rochester Public Schools.

Acting Superintendent Dr. Kent Pekel shares that RPS is actively reviewing criteria for making masks recommended, but optional, in Med City public schools.

“We are carefully reviewing the data and considering expert opinion. I hope to be able to announce the criteria we will be using in the near future. Stay tuned,” Dr. Pekel said in a tweet.

We also learn that RPS is ending its contact tracing efforts for all K-12 students. In an update sent to families on Friday, the district said it will redirect resources to focus on contact tracing in its pre-K program because those students are still not eligible for the COVID shot. -19.

RPS adds that students placed in quarantine before Friday can return to their classrooms on Monday as long as they show no symptoms. With contact tracing and quarantine rules suspended at the elementary and secondary levels, the district will now only implement its “Test to Stay” program at the pre-K level until students under age five have the opportunity to be vaccinated.

The update sent to families reads in full:

Dear Rochester Public School Families:

Rochester Public Schools has worked diligently over the past few years to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our schools. Over the past three weeks, we have been collecting data on our contact tracing process. This data demonstrates that contact tracing is no longer possible for K-12 programs due to the volume of cases and the time spent on each case. RPS will shift our resources to continue contacting research in our PreK programming as these students are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Families at all levels will continue to receive written notification when the building threshold of 5 positive cases per week is reached. We will notify families in increments of 5 (i.e. 5, 10, 15, etc.). At the elementary level, we will also notify parents when there is a positive case in their child’s class. The transmission of this information at the secondary level is neither feasible nor sustainable since a student is at several times a day with several peers.

Contact tracing will cease on Friday, February 11 for K-12 classes and programs. If your child was quarantined before Friday, they can return on Monday as long as they have no symptoms. We strongly recommend that you test before they return, tests are available from your school (see more below). For close contact exposure in the home, quarantine remains the best mitigation practice and is required for students or staff who are unvaccinated and have been in close contact with someone they live with and which is confirmed positive. For example, if a child tests positive and has unvaccinated siblings at home, those siblings should be quarantined.

Testing will continue to be a key mitigation effort available to families. Students are eligible to pick up Zoom-compatible home saliva test kits for surveillance testing. This means that any asymptomatic student and staff member can test themselves weekly to check whether or not they have COVID. Your child’s school will have more information on when they can receive and return saliva test kits. Another form of testing available to students and staff is rapid home test kits for symptomatic students. If your child has COVID symptoms or is expelled from school with COVID symptoms, your child is eligible for a rapid home test kit. If the test is negative and symptoms improve, individuals can return to school. The district will implement the Test to Stay (TTS) plan at our PreK level, where students who have been identified as a close contact but are asymptomatic are eligible for testing to stay in school. As contact tracing and quarantine are halted at primary and secondary levels, TTS is no longer needed. TTS efforts will focus on early childhood (PreK) where close contact determination and quarantine will continue until students under the age of 5 have the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Students who have tested positive must self-isolate for 10 days and return to school on the 11th day.

The Safe and Open Schools Plan We will elaborate on these details further.


Kent Pekel, Ed.D.

Acting Superintendent of Schools


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