Borough’s COVID-19 policy criticized as discriminatory

Naugatuck school parent, Khristine Long, speaks to the Board of Education on how the school COVID-19 policies have negatively affected her unvaccinated child at the school board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 13. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — Multiple borough parents say the COVID-19 school policies are discriminatory and ultimately hurting their unvaccinated children.

Fully vaccinated students don’t need to quarantine from in-person learning, sports, or other activities after contact with a COVID-19 case regardless of the time or distance of that contact, as long as they don’t show symptoms in the 14 days after their last exposure.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people would have to quarantine for five days and test on day 5 after exposure according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Screen and Stay policy would allow students to continue in-person school activities if the exposure occurred at school between masked individuals, the exposure occurred between either masked or unmasked individuals in certain supervised outdoor activities, and the person identified as a close contact remains asymptomatic.

The school district launched the Screen and Stay policy from state Department of Education and state Department of Public Health in December, according to Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini.

Unvaccinated people shouldn’t participate in the Screen and Stay policy if they have a close contact outside of school, they were in a situation indoors where masks were removed and 6 feet of spacing was not maintained or during extracurricular or other activities outside the school day, according to the policy.

A few parents spoke how the policies were more harmful than helpful for their unvaccinated children at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday.

Jill Swanson, a 37-year borough resident whose son is a Naugatuck High School senior, said the virus doesn’t discriminate against vaccinated or unvaccinated students.

“It is unfair,” Swanson said. “The minute the Department of Public Health decided that this was a rule, you all should’ve stood up and stood against it because this is setting up our children for something that we do not want.” Swanson said her son, Evan Swanson, was healthy and had to stay home last week due to being around someone who tested positive.

Christopher Montini

“So if a vaccinated student can go back to school around someone Covid positive and then they could go back to school with not symptoms, so should an unvaccinated student be allowed to do the same thing.” Swanson said.

Khristine Long said her son, a junior at NHS, is not vaccinated. She said children are suffering from physiological issues due to the pandemic and the policies have negatively affected her son.

“My son is on an IEP (Individualized Education Program). I can’t even begin to tell you guys, my heart is pierced right now. He was on the honor roll and he was forced to stay home and he was not sick because he was simply near somebody that was potentially infected,” Long said. “He never displayed, not one symptom and now he’s failing several subjects.”

Long said the honor roll gave her and her son joy but her son has since asked her “What is the point?”

“Can somebody please tell me what do I say to my son, when he no longer sees school as important because he gets kicked out every time he’s around someone exposed,” Long said.

Craig Makowski, who has three kids in the school system, said his high school son is on an IEP and was taken out of school due to close contact.

Makowski said the policies don’t work because children aren’t monitored before school, after school and on the weekends.

“He was once an honor student, now he’s struggling and failing many classes,” Makowski said. “People, please let’s have compassion and heart for these kids. They need our help.”

Board of Education member Aaron McCool said he has directed parents, who feel their children are falling through the cracks, to Montini.

“We continue to hear from parents in this community that we have a problem. I implore the board again to come together and work together to find policy and guidance that works for all of Naugatuck and not some of Naugatuck,” McCool said.

Board of Education Chairman Jeffrey Litke said after the meeting it’s possible for the board to revise or update the COVID policies.

“Nothing is off the table,” Litke said subsequently. “Right now I’m comfortable with our policies.”