Students In This Major City No Longer Have to Quarantine

By Erika Hanson | 1 month ago

COVID symptoms

Protocols and guidelines in regards to COVID mandates are perpetually changing, and no major city school district may feel the wrath of that as much as Philadelphia. So far this school year, Philadelphia schools have gone back and forth between whether or not to require students to mask up, as cases in the City of Brotherly Love continue to rise and fall. And now, the district has announced it will allow students exposed to the virus to stay in school, so long as they are asymptomatic, or showing no COVID symptoms. 

Chalkbeat reports that the Philadelphia school district recently revised its policy concerning students who have been exposed to COVID. Before May 13th, all students were required to enter a 10-day quarantine at home, regardless of vaccination status. For the rest of the school year (which isn’t very long) students who fall into the category can remain in school, as long as they show no COVID symptoms, wear a mask, and prove they have tested negative for the virus.

The new guidelines are called the “mask-to-stay” policy in Philadelphia schools. It is being hailed as a positive effort for a school district that has felt the chilling effects of chronic student absenteeism, which many officials believe might be because of the district’s previous rulings in regard to close contact cases. Major cities across America are experiencing brash student enrollment declines accompanied by chronic absenteeism issues. Much of this is because of mandatory quarantine requirements. Under the city’s last rulings, every time a student came in contact with someone who tested positive, they were required to stay at home and quarantine, and lose out on imperative time in class, regardless of whether they had any COVID symptoms or not. Oftentimes, these students remained at home without ever contracting the virus themselves.

Understanding how important it is to keep students in school whenever possible, the district Superintendent, William Hite, announced the district’s new decision last week in a letter to families. Within, he noted that requiring students with no COVID symptoms to remain at home created “unintended” consequences that diminished learning opportunities. Furthermore, he noted that school officials came to the decision based on recommendations from Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health. 

Some teacher unions pushed back on Hite and his administration’s decision to change the rulings. Without explicitly disagreeing with the decision necessarily, Robin Cooper, the president of the Commonwealth Association of School Principals criticized the district for not consulting with union leadership first. To this, she pointed to recent shutdowns seen in various schools throughout the city due to virus outbreaks. For this reason, many feel that allowing students who show no COVID symptoms to remain at school will only further the uptick in cases spreading through the city.

Research shows that asymptomatic carriers of the COVID virus still can pass it along to others. However, many reports say that these carriers, who express no COVID symptoms are more likely to spread the virus but cite this solely on the notion that they are less prone to wear a mask. With Philadelphia school’s new guidelines, these students will still have to mask up. 

COVID symptoms

Philadelphia schools will close for summer break on June 14th, so for less than a month, students can benefit from the district’s new ruling if they continue to show no COVID symptoms. As usual, the decision is met with praise for relaxing COVID regulations by some, and disdain for possibly worsening the spread of the highly contagious Omicron subvariant by others. But for students simply wishing for a return to somewhat of normalcy, the decision is likely met with approval.