By Adrienne Moore

ELK GROVE (CBS13) — The Elk Grove Unified School District on Tuesday announced it will now e-mail parents about positive COVID-19 cases instead of making individual phone calls.

There’s also new criteria under the revised notification process allowing exposed students to remain in class and go untested in some circumstances.

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This policy is effective immediately, but why now? The district said it’s a number of things: the surge in omicron cases, staffing shortages and updated guidance from public health officials.

It’s a COVID-19 policy pivot from the district, which notified parents in a letter.

Children exposed but are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic may stay in school and will not need to be tested.

For students who are unvaccinated and asymptomatic, they can stay in school, too, but are required to be tested on day five.

Those who are symptomatic will be sent home to isolate, but isolation can now end after five days if they don’t have symptoms.

When we pushed the district for answers on the changes, they sent us a statement saying:

“We are updating our safety protocols to meet current COVID-19 conditions…we are closely monitoring staffing levels and have processes in place to either increase or decrease school activities as needed under pandemic conditions.”

The shift comes as the Sacramento City Unified School District reports a deluge of sick calls.

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“Last Friday, there were 586 staff absences, which is about a 21% absentee rate,” said Jorge Aguilar, the superintendent of SCUSD. “Given the shortage of substitutes, we were able to cover just about half of those absences with substitute teachers.”

The superintendent says, over the past week, more than 1,500 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Some parents worry even simple school activities like lunchtime are putting kids at risk.

“It’s so rampant, it could’ve come from anywhere,” said Melvin Buford, a concerned parent.

We took those concerns to the district.

“We do our best around lunchtime,” said Victoria Flores, director of student support and health services with SCUSD. “We know that is a time when students would have masks off.”

Other districts are getting creative to maintain in-person learning. In Palo Alto, nearly 700 parent volunteers are working as cleaning crews and classroom aides this week.

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Officials from other local districts say they have not changed COVID-19 protocols, but that will likely change in the coming days.

Adrienne Moore