OXFORD — The Board of Education adjourned its meeting on Tuesday, September 28, after multiple outbursts from audience members who did not agree with Covid-19 quarantining procedures and mask mandate.
Superintendent Dr. Robert Miller said a small, Covid-19 cluster outbreak was discovered on Wednesday, September 22, among the high school’s volleyball and football teams with both vaccinated and unvaccinated students.
Dr. Miller told Voices school officials received conflicting guidance on quarantining students from the State Board of Education, from the town’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Frederick Browne, of Griffin Hospital, and from the Pomperaug Health District.
The advice from Dr. Browne was different from the guidelines recommended by the State Board of Education, Dr. Miller said. Dr. Browne recommended quarantining students who test positive or was in contact with a Covid-positive individual. Students then need to produce a negative Covid test to return to the classroom after about seven days.
Dr. Miller told Voices school officials are working with the Pomperaug Health District to see what they could change within their quarantining guidelines and getting more information on proper procedures for the local level.
Voices reached out to both the State Board of Education and the Pomperaug Health District, and did not heard back.
The State Board of Education’s website offers various resources for back to school including key metric indicators for counties to see at what level they stand for consideration of learning models by looking percent positivity rate. No specific list of guidelines on quarantining procedures was located.
Dr. Miller explained the mask mandate is an executive order from Gov. Ned Lamont and is state law that has to be followed. He said the schools’ legal counsel disclosed the district has no discretion locally to make changes to the mandate and the executive order is standing law. However, the district is exploring options for the quarantining procedures.
Gov. Lamont’s health emergency executive orders on the public health emergency have been extended until February 15, 2022. The executive orders were set to expire originally on September 30.
Gov. Lamont has said Connecticut has been smart in its Covid-19 response, taking the right steps to help mitigate the spread of the virus. He said the state currently has the best results in the nation and asked residents to be cautious a little longer.
Parent expressed displeasure at the extended executive orders announcement, leading to further outbursts during the school board meeting.
Chairman Stephanie Miller gave several verbal warnings before adjourning the meeting. She said Board of Education meetings are not a two-way conversation and parents had time earlier during Audience of Citizen to voice their questions and concerns.
Dr. Miller told Voices he is working with the board to create a parents’ forum to continue discussion on the quarantining guidelines and create clarification of steps to take. A parents forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, October 7, via zoom.
“We are being told there may be some loopholes we can explore on how we implement quarantine,” said Dr. Miller over the phone. “The masks, there is nothing we can do about that; that is standing law.”
A few parents prior to the meeting’s dismissal said it should be their choice if the send their child to school with a mask. Other parents agreed and said they do not want their children wearing a mask.
Dr. Miller told Voices the district cannot alter the mask mandate.