COVID-19 rules under review in Naugatuck schools, called ‘discriminatory’

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Naugatuck High School. Archives

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education will review state COVID-19 guidelines after a board member claimed the guidelines are discriminatory.

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; however, the Screen and Stay policy would allow them 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 early this month, 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.

“The family would hand in an agreement and they would agree to screen for symptoms daily during the period,” Montini said at the Dec. 9 board meeting. “If that’s the case then essentially if you qualify, you wouldn’t quarantine.”

If symptoms developed, the person would revert to the normal quarantine protocol, Montini added.

Masks are required for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated student athletes during certain competitions, including basketball and indoor track, according to Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference guidelines.

Board member Aaron McCool said the guidelines have created a class of children and citizens with no equity.

“It’s absolutely segregation,” McCool said. “It’s absolutely discrimination and something as a school district, we should be absolutely disgusted.”

Montini argued the Screen and Stay policy is more of an equalizer for school members.

McCool said school officials are treating unvaccinated students differently based on something that is outside of a child’s control because it’s a parental decision.

“We are based on the guidelines for vaccination versus unvaccinated,” Montini said.

“That is not equitable. That doesn’t speak to the vision of this board or this district,” McCool said, “something I’ve heard everyone here talk passionately about.”

Christopher Montini. Archive

Board member James Scully said medical experts are giving the school district the guidelines.
“I’m not a medical person so I can’t decide if it’s right or wrong but I just got to do what’s right for kids in the schools,” Scully said. “How could you discuss medical things when you’re not a medical professional?”

“Well we can discuss them because we’re intelligent people who are elected by our constituents to make decisions,” McCool said in response. “That’s our job.”

Board of Education student rep Tenzin Dhondup said he understands there is a fear treating people differently but the whole point is equity.

“Yes it is treating them differently but it’s because of equity. It’s to recognize that they do have different needs as opposed to vaccinated students,” Dhondup said.

Dhondup asked McCool why he felt it isn’t equitable.

“Most people who get the COVID-19 are unvaccinated. However, since vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infections, some people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19,” McCool said, pointing to the CDC website. “They (CDC) go on to talk about how it’s still spreadable, how it’s still catchable.”

A fully vaccinated person can become infected with the Delta variant and spread the virus to others, according to the CDC website.

Board member Ethel Grant said the policy doesn’t shut out unvaccinated students or eliminate their educational services but added parents don’t want unvaccinated children around their own kids.

“If you got people unvaccinated and you’re throwing them out there with your kids, how many parents actually want unvaccinated people around their kids? They don’t,” Grant said.

“You’re diluting yourself.

“You’re always going to have differences but there are guidelines as far your health, your safety,” Grant added. “I don’t see why you’d want to cross over them and that’s my opinion.”

Region 16 Superintendent Michael Yamin said he doesn’t think the guidelines are discriminatory. Region 16 is comprised of Prospect and Beacon Falls.

“If you quarantine someone who isn’t vaccinated because the health risks that we are told from the CDC is that you now become a safety risk for everyone else because you’re not vaccinated,” he said.

McCool said he wants the board to sit down and talk about the guidelines to decide whether to follow some of them.

Board Chairman Jeffrey Litke said the board would review it in the future. The next board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 13.