District announces shortened 5-day quarantine for Fayetteville students

Superintendent John L. Colbert / Fayetteville Public Schools

FAYETTEVILLE — Students who test positive for COVID-19 can return to class after five days as long as their symptoms are resolving, officials announced Thursday.

Previous rules required a 10-day quarantine after being infected with the virus.

Superintendent John L. Colbert said the School District received updated guidance from the state’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education which replaces all previous protocol requirements. The new guidelines come after last week’s announcement of a shortened quarantine recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Students who test positive are still required to isolate regardless of their vaccination status, Colbert said.

After five days of isolation, students may return to school if their symptoms are gone or resolving, he said. Anyone who still has a fever after five days cannot return to class until at least 14 hours after the fever breaks.

The district’s mask mandate was reinstated this week after a surge in new virus cases.

Masks had been optional for students in grades 7-12 since Nov. 15, and would have been optional for all students after the holiday break if new cases had remained stable.

The School Board in October updated its COVID-19 policy to simply recommend masks instead of requiring them, but that rule can only be applied if the number of active cases in the community is below 30 per 10,000 people as reported by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI). Once it rises above that threshold for a consecutive 14-day period, masks are no longer optional.

The center last week announced a 33 per 10,000 rate, and this week reported a 71 per 10,000 rate which triggered the mask mandate.

The district provided the following guidelines in an email sent to the community on Thursday:

If you are considered a probable close contact with someone with COVID-19, you should quarantine if you are in one of the following groups:

  • You are ages 18 or older and completed the primary series of recommended vaccine but have not received a recommended booster shot when eligible.
  • You are age 18 or older and received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (completing the primary series) over 2 months ago and have not received the recommended booster dose.
  • You are not vaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series.

An individual who has likely been within 3 feet for 15 cumulative minutes or longer within a 24-hour period during the infectious period of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 is a probable close contact.

Stay home and away from other people for at least 5 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.

Wear a well-fitting mask through the 10th day after contact with a person who has COVID-19. (If you are unable to wear a mask, continue to quarantine for 10 days.)

Monitor for symptoms, and, if symptoms occur, self-isolate and get tested.

Remember, Fayetteville Public Schools offers a free meal option for all children 0-18 years of age, even during quarantine. Click here for more information.

If you came into close contact with someone with COVID-19 and you are in one of the following groups, you do not need to quarantine:

  • You are ages 18 and older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including booster and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
  • You are ages 5-17 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • You had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (PCR or Antigen Test)

Individuals exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 will not need to quarantine if the exposed individual has no symptoms and both the infected and exposed individual were consistently and correctly wearing a mask.

If at least 70% of staff and students are fully vaccinated in a school, individuals in the school (not district) are not required to quarantine. (At this time, FPS has no school that meets this criterion.)

An individual who has completed at least 5 full days of at-home isolation or quarantine may participate in activities provided they are able to properly mask during that activity for the remainder of the 10-day isolation or quarantine period. (Interscholastic athletic activities may be subject to additional health and safety protocols adopted by the Arkansas Activities Association.)

If someone is unable to wear a mask for any reason, including a medical exemption, you should complete a full 10-day quarantine/isolation post-exposure.