Nazareth Superintendent, Dr. Dennis Riker, clarified some of the changes being made to the district’s health and safety plan at the February 8 meeting of the Nazareth Area School Board. A vote passed at the last board meeting to remove a mask mandate in the schools, excluding district buses and the nurse’s suite. Masks are now encouraged and recommended, but not mandated. There will be no changes to social distancing indoors, hand sanitation is available and encouraged and classrooms will still be cleaned and sanitized regularly. According to Riker, a survey of parents in the district revealed that 60 to 70 percent of respondents were in favor of the changes to the health and safety plan. Around 90 percent of respondents said that vaccines should be optional, as reflected by the district’s policy: vaccines will not be required, proof of vaccination will not be asked for and the district will not offer vaccination clinics. If families need assistance finding a vaccination site, school nurses will provide that information. The new plan calls for the cafeteria to return to a pre-covid normal.
Riker also presented two options for a policy in place of contract tracing. Option A requires reporting positive cases to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH) and a five-day quarantine for household close contacts, a five-day quarantine for someone with symptoms awaiting test results and a five-day conditional quarantine for positive cases. A person who has tested positive may return after five days if asymptomatic and a face covering is recommended.
Option B requires reporting to the PA DOH and similar quarantines for each case, save for a close household contact where an asymptomatic person can return in three days instead of five.
Parents in attendance were largely in support of the changes to the plan and applauded Nazareth School District for being a “leader in the Lehigh Valley.” There were a few dissenting voices worried about prolonging the pandemic and putting vulnerable people at risk.
The next Nazareth School Board meeting will be held on February 22 at 7 p.m.