The second year was trash. The junior year was a trash.

Maybe the last year would be promising, said Leeaisa Adams, a 16-year-old Ecorse high school student, standing outside the school on Tuesday, the first day back.

For Ecorse students, much of the last school year has been spent online, an atmosphere that just isn’t the same as the school in person, where Leeiasa’s friends surround him.

“It’s just the environment,” she said of her return.

The students of the Ecorse high school undergo a security search and pass through a metal detector on the first day of school at the Ecorse high school in Ecorse on September 7, 2021.

Back to school this year feels like a shaky dance: more students are returning in person, and many are in desperate need of the kind of attention they can only get from face-to-face lessons. But the Delta variant still hangs over Michigan: Schools report new cases every day, sparking anxiety and debates over masks and how to respond to inevitable school cases.

It’s also unclear whether this year could result in a repeat of the last one: dozens of students quarantined at once, with some districts sometimes returning to the virtual school.

Based on new guidelines from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released on Wednesday, it is likely Michigan will not see dozens of students in quarantine.

Ecorse High School Principal Michael Barclay (center) greets parents and students on day one at Ecorse High School in Ecorse on September 7, 2021.

There is a lot at stake this year, as many educators fear that students have fallen behind academically and are experiencing emotional difficulties. At Ecorse, principal Michael Barclay rushed from an outside hallway to the gymnasium as the students began to enter.

“It’s very difficult to build a relationship when you’re virtual,” he said. “They log in, then verify.”

Will the students be quarantined?

If a student is positive or showing symptoms, they should stay home.

The new Michigan Department of Health guidelines, which are optional for school districts, outline a few different scenarios:

  • If a student is vaccinated and has come into contact with someone positive for coronavirus: The student can stay in school after exposure if they have no symptoms and are wearing a mask.
  • If a student is not vaccinated and is exposed to a coronavirus positive student while both are wearing masks and at least 3 feet apart: The student can stay in school, but must continue to mask and watch for symptoms.
  • If a student is not vaccinated and is exposed to a coronavirus positive student while both are wearing masks but are within 3 feet of each other: In this case, the exposed student can stay in school, but must test daily for seven days. If they can’t test daily, they have to quarantine themselves.
  • If a student is exposed and one or both students are not wearing a mask: The student must go into quarantine and can return after 10 days if he has not shown any symptoms during these 10 days.

Masking is essential in the layered approach that the Department of Health recommends in its new guidelines. However, masks are not mandatory statewide. According to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, 229 of the state’s 500 school districts require face coverings. About 60% of public school students are under a mask mandate.

Signage for the use of a mask is posted at the entrance when students of Ecorse High School enter the school during the first day at Ecorse High School in Ecorse on September 7, 2021.

Testing also plays an important role in the new directions, but could prove costly for parents if they cannot access testing supplies through their school. A same-day antigen test at CVS costs $ 23.99 – totaling almost $ 170 for a week’s supply. Some counties, including Livingston and Bay, are experimenting with “test-to-stay” programs, providing tests to parents of children exposed to COVID-19 at school.

Is this the right approach? And will schools even follow the advice?

Ultimately, all of this advice is optional. Schools will opt for their own quarantine procedures.

In Detroit, the state’s largest public school district, anyone considered to be close contact with a staff member or student who tested positive will be required to immediately self-quarantine under district policies. The Utica Community School District Parent Handbook, however, states that close contacts “may” be asked to self-quarantine.

The students of the Ecorse high school await the start of their class on the first day at the Ecorse high school in Ecorse on September 7, 2021.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are similar to updated Michigan guidelines. Both agencies see masks as the key to keeping children in school.

“I think masks are important,” said Dr Dennis Cunningham, infection control manager at Henry Ford Health System. “I know not all schools use them and there is a lot of misinformation on the internet, but if the students wear masks it will really help prevent disease.”

Cunningham said the dining room could complicate Michigan’s quarantine guidelines.

“What worries me is when kids eat and drink.… They don’t wear masks and they’re probably close to other kids, which makes me a little nervous,” he said. “I’m not sure it works really well.”

(Left to right) Grade 10 Ecorse High School students Bruce Fomby, Dennell Kemp and Milton Streater review their class schedules on Day One at Ecorse High School in Ecorse on September 7, 2021.

Dr Jon Gold, a pediatrician at Michigan State University, said it can take up to two weeks after exposure for patients to start experiencing symptoms. But masking and distancing can help reduce the risk of spread in schools.

Doctors and public health officials are trying to find a balance in establishing protocols for schools.

“We know that in-person school is best for kids and the evidence seems to be mounting every day that how many kids who were virtual last year have lost ground and we don’t want that to happen. “, did he declare.

Contact Lily Altavena: [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @LilyAlta.