MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — The fast-spreading omicron variant is prompting Vermont schools to stop the use of contact tracing and PCR surveillance testing, shifting responsibility to parents. The Scott Administration acknowledges that the change in strategy in regards to schools is abrupt.
“Omicron is forcing us to move quicker than we might have otherwise have wanted to,” Education Secretary Dan French said. “But we concluded we needed to make that shift, needed to make that change, sooner rather than later.”
French says these changes mainly affect contact tracing and testing in K-12 schools, given the strain on school nurses. “We’ve had some concern for some time now about the ability of school staff to sustain contact tracing,” he said.
Omicron has also outpaced the test-to-stay program. Instead of schools administering tests on-site, they’ll be administered at home before the students come to school. “Schools will receive deliveries of additional test kits this week,” French said. “They can transition to this new testing system when they feel they have an adequate supply of tests to do so, which I expect for schools will be later this week.”
Some parents are concerned with the new guidance. One family, who switched to homeschooling last year because of COVID, elected to send their fourth-grade daughter back to in-person learning this year. “We’ve been happy with the way things have gone at her school this year,” said Elizabeth Pacheco, the girl’s mother. “I’m concerned about the new guidelines where they don’t want to trace and let us know if she has positive contacts.”
The Scott Administration says parents will get a response notification with testing recommendations depending on the student’s vaccination status. Vermont expects cases to increase into January but slow down by February.