Hundreds of parents have signed a petition and several issued pleas to the Minneapolis Public Schools board to end the district's continued requirement for 14 days of quarantine for students potentially exposed to COVID-19 at school.
MPS continues to require any students who are deemed to be close contacts of someone who has tested positive for the virus to stay off school for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms or test negative for COVID multiple times during that period.
A 14-day quarantine is still considered by the Minnesota Department of Health to be the "safest recommendation" for those exposed to COVID-19, but it does suggest that schools can consider "shortened quarantine periods" such as the seven days with a negative test or 10 days with no test recommended by the CDC.
Other Twin Cities school districts have less strict quarantine protocols than MPS. St. Paul Public Schools, for example, requires a 10-day quarantine from the date of exposure from which you can't "test out" (return after testing negative).
This is all taking place against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases in schools across Minnesota, particularly in greater Minnesota where mask use and vaccination rates are generally lower than in the Twin Cities.
Fortunately thus far, there has not been a corresponding spike in hospitalizations among students and staff, which are rising more slowly, but the growth in cases and the potential exposures to "close contact" students is seeing increasingly more quarantine protocols enacted, putting pressure on family members to provide childcare or potentially miss work.
This was a point made by Caroline Hood, an MPS parent who is also a clinical social worker "with expertise in adverse childhood experiences." She has compiled a petition with more than 580 signatures calling for MPS to end its 14-day quarantine requirement.
She spoke before the Minneapolis Public Schools Board meeting on Tuesday evening, saying that "parents have called me in tears saying they are having to choose between a paycheck and their child," while the extended periods away from in-person learning are having mental health, social, emotional, developmental, and academic impacts, as well as economic.
"For MPS families I'm hearing this is by far the most challenging part of this pandemic," she continues. "This is made even more challenging when our colleagues, friends, and family in Roseville, St Paul, Edina, Rosemount, St. Louis Park, Eden Prairie etc. don't have kids quarantining, at least not for 14 days," she said.
"I request a reduction in COVID quarantine timeframes from 14 days to the CDC's 10 with no test or seven with a test, or follow the countless other districts in the state that are using effective 'test to stay' protocols to keep kids learning in person."
The meeting also received messages from a number of other parents critical of the 14-day requirement, among them Annamay Snyder, who said her son was one of 10 elementary students required to quarantine from Oct. 1 because they were a close contact of a positive case.
"We gave my son a rapid test the day he was sent home and it was negative, five days after the exposure we gave him a PCR test which also came back negative," she said in a voicemail on Oct. 7. "Even if he continues to test negative and remain without symptoms, he won't be able to return to school for another week.
"My husband and I are privileged to be able to work from home so I don't have to miss work while my son is in quarantine. Many parents of MPS are not able to work from home and thus face significant hardships when their kids must remain home for an extended time period."
Bring Me The News has reached out to MPS to learn what the next steps will be for responding to the petition and parents' submissions, but in an update on her petition, Hood said that they're expecting to hear back this week about a possible switch to 10 days quarantine.