Augusta County School Board holds off adjusting COVID isolation period from 10 to 5 days

VERONA — The Augusta County School Board briefly discussed changes to COVID-19 mitigation strategies at its meeting Thursday night but ultimately decided to hold off on any decisions.

The board discussed the possibility of changing the isolation period for students and teachers with COVID from 10 to five days, in accordance with the recent updates the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC suggested that after five days, if asymptomatic or recovered from symptoms, that it was safe for positive cases to leave isolation.

North River representative Nicholas Collins introduced the topic, asking the board members whether they thought the policy change would help with staffing issues.

“I wonder if the new rule of changing from a 10-day to a five-day isolation situation would be beneficial for us to accept, which would give us additional staff opportunities,” Collins said.

Riverheads representative John Ward expressed caution about making the change, adding that he’s seen cases rising in the community, even among vaccinated people. Ward suggested waiting to decide until Jan. 20, when the school board is hosting a retreat, and COVID-19 mitigation strategies will be on the budget.

Superintendent Eric Bond agreed with Ward’s caution when asked for his opinion by the new Pastures representative Timothy Simmons.

“We are seeing a spike right now. We saw it last year; the holiday spike is what we like to call it,” Bond said. “I think for me, staying the course with what we’re doing right now has worked pretty effectively for us for the last 22 months. Staying the course and at least getting through the month of January could be beneficial.”

The board also appointed its chairs for the year at Thursday’s meeting.

Middle River representative John Shiflett was selected to be the chairman of the board, replacing Ward. Beverley Manor representative Donna Wells takes over the position of vice-chair.

Collins commended Ward for his service as chairman in 2021 as the board continued to navigate the pandemic and dealt with other contentious issues in recent months.

“You were the right person to lead us this past year with your demeanor, your calmness and your maturity,” Collins said. “In the 22 years I’ve served on this board, I’m really glad I wasn’t chairman last year. I think you did a wonderful job representing us and keeping us in order.”

At its retreat on Jan. 20, the school board will interview applicants for the vacant South River seat. Tim Goforth announced his resignation from the position in July, citing the effects of service on his health, and served his last meeting in December. The interim member will be appointed at the board’s Feb. 3 meeting.