Dr. Manisha Juthani, the state commissioner of public health, explains the new “Screen and Stay” protocols Thursday, as Gov. Ned Lamont looks on. / Photo by Mark Pazniokas, CT Mirror.

WESTPORT — Although the town has ended its indoor mask mandate and Westport public schools have reported no new COVID cases in two weeks, universal mask-wearing is still required in the schools under a gubernatorial executive order.

Aside from the continued mask mandate, with positive news regarding low COVID infection rates and approval of vaccines for children 5 to 11 years old, Supt. of Schools Thomas Scarce said Friday, “We have begun to consider relaxing many of our COVID-mitigating measures over the next few weeks.”

Among the highlights in Scarice’s update:

“SCREEN AND STAY”

The program, announced this week by Gov. Ned Lamont, is designed to lessen the number of students and school staff required to quarantine after exposure to someone who has the virus.

The state Department of Public Health issued terms of the policy, which allows “close contacts” to stay in school under certain circumstances.

Vaccinated students and staff are not required to quarantine.

According to the superintendent, the protocol will allow students and staff not fully vaccinated, but who have been in close contact with the virus, to remain in school. Staff or students identified as eligible will be required to complete and submit a daily screening questionnaire to report signs of illness, he said.

“Screen and Stay” will be offered if the following criteria are met:

  • Contact occurred during the school day. It does not include contact during extracurricular activities or outside of school, social or household exposure.
  • If contact takes place indoors or on a school bus, and both the contact and the case were masked during the exposure.
  • During brief unmasked periods, such as snack time or in a cafeteria, where six feet or more of space was maintained.
  • If outdoors, masked or unmasked, but staff supervised, such as mask breaks, physical education or recess.
  • The student or staff member remains asymptomatic.

K-6 WEEKLY SERIAL COVID TESTING

The program will continue through the end of November, but if low infection rates and high vaccination rates continue, it will then end, Scarice said.

VACCINATION MANDATE FOR SCHOOL VISITORS

The requirement that school visitors show proof of having been vaccinated will be relaxed “in the near future,” as long as infection rates remain low, Scarice said.

However, school employees will still be required to be vaccinated, per one of the governor’s executive orders.

VACCINATION REQUIREMENT FOR PARENT/TEACHER CONFERENCES

Until the protocol mandating vaccines for all school visitors is relaxed, Scarice said parents can attend a parent/teacher conference only if vaccinated. 

Provisions will be made for virtual conferences if a parent is not vaccinated, he said. 

LUNCH

Most elementary student lunches have been served outdoors under tents from the start of the school year, but as the weather turns colder and infection rates stay low, all lunches will be served in schools’ cafeterias

MODIFICATIONS DEPEND ON INFECTION RATES

Scarice added, however, “All of these proposed modifications are subject to change pending infection rates.”