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Facing staff shortages, TUSD votes to shorten COVID policy to match CDC

Staffing shortages across TUSD led the board to vote for a shorter quarantine and isolation period.
Posted at 10:15 PM, Jan 11, 2022

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Tucson Unified School District board voted Tuesday night to shorten its COVID-19 protocol policy to match the CDC’s new guidance as a way to combat staffing shortages being felt across the district.

In order to get staff back in school sooner, all staff testing positive for COVID can now return to work in five days instead of 10, as long as:

* They have no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine
* They wear a mask (TUSD already has a universal mask policy)
* They have no symptoms
* They have improving symptoms and a negative COVID-19 test result

Students and staff who are not fully vaccinated and are exposed to a positive test can now return to school in only five days, if they produce a negative test result.

CDC guidance already says someone who is fully vaccinated does not need to quarantine if exposed to someone with a positive test.

“I think it’s gonna relieve a great amount of stress on our principals and on our teachers, if they can have our staff back five days less,” superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said during Tuesday’s virtual board meeting. “I think that will go a long way in addressing some of the [low] morale, some of the situations.”

The policy change is currently being re-written and will be sent out to parents and staff this week.

Trujillo also says this week principals will be informed of new protocols on discipline for employees who refuse to follow the district’s mask or weekly pool testing policies.

The updates come as staffing shortages are causing major issues at several schools.

“A superintendent from Maricopa County told me they are hanging on for dear life, just like we are,” Trujillo said of the staffing challenges.

Trujillo indicated that this staffing crisis would typically lead the district to switch to fully remote learning until cases drop, but that following executive orders signed by Gov. Ducey, they legally do not have that power unless an order comes from the Arizona Department of Health Services or Pima County Health Department

“That ability to do that has been taken from us, so we have to come together here to get through this latest wave as safely as possible, as transparently as possible to make sure that we’re doing everything to keep students and staff safe,” Trujillo said.

Tests are also in short supply. The district only has enough rapid tests in stock to handle the weekly staff pool testing and testing for symptomatic, on-campus students to which it previously committed.

A “test-to-stay” system—in which students test regularly in order to come to campus— is being considered for students, but Trujillo says it is not plausible now because it would double or triple the need for rapid tests. Trujillo also says it would add more work to the district’s already-strained health staff.