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St. Paul Public Schools looking at possible COVID policy changes

The district is looking to drop its vaccine or test policy, shorten quarantine time and update some of the guidelines surrounding unvaccinated students and staff.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Less than a month before our kids go back to school, the CDC announced a big change when it comes to COVID-19 guidelines, no longer suggesting schools do routine daily testing for COVID.

St. Paul Public Schools wants the district to drop it's vaccine or test policy, and it wants to get rid of the rule saying unvaccinated students and staff have to stay home if they're in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. 

It's also looking to shorten quarantine time, should a student or staff member has to go into quarantine.

"The key changes for us are that we're reducing the quarantine period to five days," said SPPS Superintendent Joe Gothard. "That's for students and staff, and that's whether or not they've been vaccinated."

That vaccination status is a change, as well.

"In the past there was extra precaution for unvaccinated, and now we are treating everyone the same," Gothard said.

These changes are not a done deal in St. Paul -- they're what the district is asking the school board to sign off on, which hasn't happened yet.

So, why are they asking?

Gothard said one reason was that the uptake, in his view, on vaccination has been good in the district.

RELATED: Weekly updates: COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations in Minnesota

"We found that it didn't take the teeth of a policy or resolution to create that 80% of our staff are vaccinated," Gothard said.

Perhaps the bigger issue is the undeniable toll COVID has taken on trying to make school work for all families.

"Because of the way that we were recording quarantine, it was like a month by the time COVID would run through a family," Gothard said. "The children were missing school and we know the impact of the learning loss, loss of socialization and access to services has created."

None of that, Gothard says, means they won't test, isolate or quarantine if they have to. They may even shift learning models.

"We also have a plan in place, we know what to do we know how to handle this," Gothard said. "We know, also, how to change on a moments notice -- if we have to go to more restrictive procedures, we've been there and done that -- we still have the people and the ability to do that if need be."

Minneapolis Public Schools says it has yet to finalize its COVID-19 plans, while Anoka-Hennepin School District said it was waiting for the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health before making a decision.

RELATED: If you're exposed to COVID, FDA now recommends 3 at-home tests

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