A Cody School District parent is frustrated and considering legal action and homeschooling after being told her child, who was healthy, had to quarantine for a week after her sister tested positive for COVID-19.
Some of the frustration comes from when a matter falls under school policy or state public health order.
Friday morning, Billie Jo Alexander said she attempted to bring her 13-year-old daughter Sophia back to school with a mask on and was given a public health order, signed by State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, stating her daughter had to remain quarantined due to her other daughter, seventh-grader Bella, being positive with the virus. Alexander said Bella was not wearing a mask before getting sick. She said she leaves it up to her children to decide if they want to wear a mask.
Sophia, however, had always worn one.
“My daughter is a straight-A student, member of Junior Honor Society,” Alexander said. “And she is refused the right to go to school just because her sister is sick and isolated.”
She said the time out led to Sophia struggling with her school work and becoming anxious. Even after returning this week, Alexander said Sophia has had to stay after school to make up assignments from the week prior she had failing grades in. Alexander also said she tested her daughters both daily with rapid tests, which continue to show one positive and the other negative.
“My 13-year-old daughter who cannot learn at home because there are no successful remote learning options through Cody Middle is failing assignments in two classes,” she told Park County Public Health Nurse Bill Crampton in an email. “She is depressed and has massive anxiety every day.”
Interim superintendent Tim Foley said the close contact policy the school has, which does say a properly masked student can stay in school after a close contact if they show no symptoms, only accounts for interactions at school.
“If a student has close contact outside of school, they have to quarantine,” he said. “Our masking applies to students on the bus and at school.”
Additionally, he said students can only avoid quarantining after being in close contact with a COVID-positive individual at school or on the bus if that student was already wearing their mask all day at school.
As for close contact outside the school, current state health order states unvaccinated people within close contact have to quarantine at home and avoid public spaces throughout the quarantine period.
Foley said students in that situation do have the ability to get a PCR or equivalent level test on Day 5 and, if negative with no symptoms, return to school on Day 8.
Alexander was able to do just that with her daughter, as she asked for a test Saturday and, when that was negative, was able to have her daughter return Tuesday.
She remains frustrated with the episode and her daughter missing a week of school.
“If you’re going to give me the rules, follow the rules,” she said. “I’m going above and beyond by testing, because it is important. I’m not one who doesn’t believe in COVID.”
She said she’s been helped by fellow local parent Sara Leonard, who emailed Crampton and Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin to say she’s frustrated with what happened with Alexander and said a lot of parents have been talking with her about legal options.
“I am standing up for all kids and parents who can’t or won’t stand up and I will not stop until all kids are able to go to school without fear of being wrongfully punished, which right now they are,” she wrote in part.
Leonard, who helped Alexander study some of the school and legal issues, has helped organize community talks for those frustrated with COVID regulations.
“Most parents aren’t aware of the legal aspect of what the school is doing,” Leonard said. “I told her I would stand up for what I saw if she needed me to.”
Alexander said Sophia returned to school once again with her mask on and she hopes this episode is not experienced by another family, but she’s not so sure.
“I was shocked it happened this time, I’m concerned moving forward,” she said. “I’m stunned at the way we have gotten to where we are, especially for school kids. This is their education.”