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RCAS employees now able to work after exposure to COVID-19 with critical infrastructure rule

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 1:52 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - RCAS Board of Education unanimously voted teachers and staff as “critical infrastructure workers” Monday.

This move means employees can continue to work in buildings with confirmed COVID-19 exposure, as long as they’re asymptomatic and take extra precautions. The board felt the protocol necessary since RCAS wouldn’t have enough staff to keep the school system running.

The sponsor of this memorandum is Director of Human Resources Synova Nicolaisen.

The search for substitute teachers has been urgent for the school district, as many usual substitutes have opted out of teaching this year. On Sept. 15, Superintendent Lori Simons said the substitute teacher pool is “down about 30% this school year.”

At the meeting, Nicolaisen said in September, the district had 185 active substitutes, 14 are being added in this month and eight are in training.

“The numbers are much lower than last year,” she said.

Currently, there are 10 of 19 staff members are contagious or 52.6% of those who tested positive, Nicolaisen reported. Three are quarantined and 40 staff members are in quarantine after close contact.

Full memorandum here.

So far there have been 875 absences this school year. These are absences for all reasons, not just COVID-19, Nicolaisen explained. Of those absences, 451 of them have been filled by a substitute, 90 haven’t been filled and 97 of those absences a substitute wasn’t requested.

The memorandum defines a confirmed exposure as a “household contact or having close contact within six feet for 15 minutes of an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. A confirmed exposure includes exposure during the period of 48 hours prior to the COVID positive individual becoming symptomatic and/or testing positive through 10 days.”

The rule does not apply to employees who test positive for COVID-19, close contacts who are symptomatic or household close contacts who are asymptomatic. All three examples would mean the employee must quarantine, the district said in a memo.

The memo stresses employees have the option to return to their assigned duties within the building as long as they remain asymptomatic.

Nicolaisen shared data that showed approximately 55-60% of staff were in support of the critical infrastructure designation, while another 25-35% were not against and 5-10% were undecided.

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