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Special meeting of Stanly school board focuses on coronavirus

The Stanly County Board of Education called a special meeting Tuesday night to update its members and the public on Stanly County Schools’ plans to deal with issues related to the COVID-19 virus.

G. David Jenkins, Health and Human Services director for the Stanly County Health Department, gave a presentation regarding the coronavirus. Jenkins gave tips on how to prevent the spread of the virus (washing your hands, social distancing, staying home from work if sick) along with diagnostic information on when people are tested.

The director said people most at risk for catching COVID-19 include those 65 and older with underlying health conditions, like diabetes, heart or lung disease, or those with weakened immune systems.

Jenkins presented the most current numbers as of Tuesday afternoon regarding confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of the 5,702 cases in the United States, 45 are in North Carolina. While 94 Americans have died so far, none of which were from North Carolina, Stanly does not have a confirmed case.

The global mortality rates for coronavirus is 3.7 percent, which Jenkins said was much lower then other infectious diseases like SARS and MERS.

Face masks, which Jenkins said are in high demand and short supply, are not recommended for people to protect themselves from respiratory diseases including COVID-19. Masks should be worn by healthcare providers and those who show symptoms of the disease to prevent its spread to others.

Jenkins fielded questions from the board, including Jeff Chance, who asked about testing being available locally. The director said locally the department has the maximum amount of test kits allowed from the state lab. They also have local providers contracted with other testing companies like LabCorp who can do tests. Turnaround time on tests, he added, was about two to three days.

SCS Superintendent Dr. Jeff James noted two board meetings ago a plan was presented to them about remote learning.

“We already had some structures in place, preparing for inclement weather,” James said, noting the plans were more for weather than the current situation.

James said some of the laws involving transfers of funds allowed SCS to set up the lunch program. He added the number of meals fed Monday, 5,324, was the largest number in the state. The number grew Tuesday to 8,376, accounting for two meals (a hot lunch and the next day’s breakfast) per student.

Mandy Melton, Child Nutrition Director for SCS, said the United States Department of Agriculture requires schools to operate out of school with 50 percent or higher free/reduced lunch to provide meals at no cost.

Bus routes have delivered meals while any left over meals have been distributed at public parking lots such as Walmart and Family Dollar. The sites at the eight schools have drive-thru service.

Beverly Pennington, SCS’s Director of Student Services, said the meals were for any and all school-age children in Stanly, regardless of whether they attend public school in Stanly. Home-schooled or private school students may also receive a free lunch and breakfast.

James said the remote learning program had two weeks to prepare, but SCS did not need the full time. Packets for parents to pickup were to be ready Wednesday and Thursday mornings, with grades kindergarten through fifth grade getting paper packets and older students electronic or online lessons.

Classrooms, James said, will be cleaned with electrostatic foggers, of which SCS has six. Before the coronavirus, James noted when classrooms and buses at night were cleaned with the devices, absenteeism due to illness decreased.

Parents will also be allowed the next two days to pick up any items left behind by students. Anything still remaining, James said, will be sanitized and the schools sanitized.

Dr. Alisha Ellis, Director of Secondary Education and AIG, told the board she met with the principals of the middle and high schools to streamline communication between schools and families. Lists are being produced with teacher contact information as well as surveying students to see which have home WiFi access.

Chromebooks will be available for students to complete work assigned by teachers, both online and offline. The work should be approximately 30 to 45 minutes per subject.

The board also passed two motions Tuesday to ensure payment to locally-paid employees and continue to use teacher work days for the remainder of the week.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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