Several Greenfield students were sent home this week and told to isolate after exhibiting possible COVID-19 symptoms.
Parents of two of the students called the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation’s coronavirus policies an “overreaction” and insisted their children merely had seasonal allergies.
One mother refused to get her daughter tested for COVID-19.
“I’m not taking her for the test. I am not. I’m not putting my daughter through the pain just over a sore throat,” said Shannon, whose daughter is a freshman at Greenfield-Central High School.
Shannon requested to be identified by only her first name due to work-related privacy concerns.
Her daughter was told to quarantine for two weeks after the freshman stayed home Wednesday and reported having a sore throat, she said.
Machelle Poindexter’s son, a sophomore at Greenfield-Central High School, was also told to quarantine after he told his football coach he wasn’t feeling well enough to attend a Tuesday afternoon practice.
The student-athlete hadn’t taken his allergy medication before attending several outdoor events over the weekend – including a birthday party – and had mild congestion, fatigue and throat irritation, according to his mother.
“We’re getting a COVID test so he can get back into school earlier,” Machelle told News 8.
However, the district does not require negative test results for students to return to school before the end of their recommended quarantine period.
Students sent home with possible COVID-19 symptoms can return to in-person classes after submitting a note from a doctor indicating they are “healthy enough to be in school,” Greenfield-Central superintendent Dr. Harold Olin said in an email to News 8.
He was unable to confirm how many symptomatic students had been sent home and told to quarantine.
At least a dozen Greenfield parents shared similar stories in a Facebook group about their children being sent home, according to Machelle.
“We have erred on the side of caution in this matter,” Olin said. “If students exhibit any of the COVID-19 symptoms, they are generally being sent home… We have four registered nurses on our staff. We do not have a medical doctor, so we are not diagnosing symptoms. We have asked families to self-screen their children each day before coming to school.”
A list of symptoms including fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue “warrant consideration for exclusion from school,” according to a joint statement issued before the start of the academic year by Olin and three other Hancock County superintendents.
Shannon and Machelle worried keeping their children home from school and pivoting to virtual learning would disrupt their education.
“My daughter’s not able to do the work. She’s like, ‘Yeah, everything’s online but they’re not explaining it,’” Shannon said.
Machelle said her son was “definitely going to be behind” when he returned to in-person learning.
“Are going to start kicking out every child that has a runny nose or coughs?” she asked.
Both mothers called for school officials to improve screening policies; perhaps by implementing rapid response saliva tests for COVID-19, instead of relying solely on symptom reports.
Parents across the nation have flouted public health recommendations while pushing for schools to reopen.
The Greenfield-Central district made national headlines after a junior high school student with pending test results was sent to school. The district learned the student tested positive for COVID-19 partway through the first day of school.
A study cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found up to 13% of children with COVID-19 were asymptomatic.
“The prevalence of asymptomatic infection and duration of pre-symptomatic infection in children are not well understood, as asymptomatic individuals are not routinely tested,” according to the CDC’s Information for Pediatric Healthcare Providers.