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Stanly County Schools to go remote learning for two weeks

Stanly County Schools will switch to full remote learning Wednesday after a decision made by the school board at Saturday’s emergency meeting.

The motion was made by Board Member Patty Crump who read, “Due to increased community spread of COVID-19 and despite the efforts undertaken by the school system thus far, we have a coordinated recommendation from the Stanly County Health Department and Stanly County Schools’ administrative team to go full remote for a two-week period. I move we accept the recommendation to go full remote beginning Wednesday, Oct. 14, in order to give parents time to plan, with students returning Monday, Nov. 2 and teachers returning Friday, Oct. 30.”

Glenda Gibson seconded the motion, and the board passed it, 5-1, with Vice Chairman Ryan McIntyre voting against the motion. Chairman Melvin Poole did not vote on the motion.

All SCS employees will go to remote work and continue to be paid, according to Assistant Superintendent Vicki Calvert. Some assignments will be based on an employee’s job. Teachers will teach remotely and be given other assignments or duties to perform remotely as well as possibly training videos to view during the period, she added.

After the meeting, McIntyre said he did not support the closure of school for any amount on time, voting against the measure due to the time frame being irrelevant because the community spread is not from the school system.

McIntyre said “we are taking more safety measures at school than is going to occur in a two-week remote period for kids out in the community.” He said he wanted to make sure parents understand if someone is “showing any symptoms, you don’t come to school.”

In the meeting before an extended closed-session discussion, the School Board heard from Stanly County Health Department Director David Jenkins the latest information on the COVID-19 numbers before he made a formal recommendation the schools go to remote learning for two weeks.

Jenkins made the recommendation for virtual learning, he said, to conduct deeper cleaning of the schools and “tightening up some of our policies and procedures for screening of visitors and staff.”

A two-week move to remote learning, Jenkins said, “can better balance the health and safety of our students and faculty with trying to get children into the classroom to get that quality education we want them to have.”

According to Jenkins, Stanly is currently at 9.2 percent of tests coming up positive, which has been trending upwards and is far above the state’s percentage of 5.7 percent. In cases per 10,000 residents, Stanly is at 352, compared to Cabarrus (204), Union (224) and Rowan (262) counties. Only Montgomery County, at 398 cases per 10,000 residents, is higher.

Twenty-three people have been hospitalized in Stanly with COVID from Sept. 21-Oct. 9, and the county has 67 deaths to the virus. Out of 2,237 total cases, 1,827 have recovered.

Stanly still has five outbreaks and five clusters as well in congregate living facilities including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the Albemarle Correctional Institution.

Jenkins said the COVID numbers over the last couple of weeks “are going in the opposite direction we were hoping it would go.” He said many are having “COVID fatigue and mask fatigue” with the length of the pandemic, adding a new press release issued Friday asked residents to be calm and remain diligent with wearing masks and social distancing.

“There’s a lot of asymptomatic folks that are carrying COVID that they don’t know they have,” Jenkins said.

Patricia Hancock, nursing supervisor for the Health Department, gave weekly numbers over the past five weeks showing numbers of school-related infections, whether it be in Stanly or elsewhere, increasing from one the week of Sept. 7 to 18 three weeks later. She added approximately 65 of the 83 cases from this past week are still under investigation and may add more school-related infections. Of the numbers over the past five weeks, 21 of those cases were in people under the age of 18.

Jenkins said the Health Department has been informed about some “inconsistent screening” of people entering schools in Stanly, including staff, students and vendors.

“That’s very concerning for trying to work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” he added, saying their case investigators verified it. “We absolutely should not let that happen if we’re going to keep this out of our school system.”

The investigations discovered many parents are refusing to let their children be tested, which Jenkins said “makes it that much more complex in trying (to figure out) how we deal with these issues.”

When asked by School Board member Anthony Graves about the primary causes of infection of children affected, Hancock said the virus has “broad community spread,” saying many of the cases have been linked back to the community. She added there was “no way to pinpoint a place where someone contracts COVID. It is so broadly spread in the community.”

Jenkins added most of the spread of the virus “has taken place outside the school system, unfortunately, and that’s why we have to be diligent about our screening processes.”

The director said SCS was proactive in putting measures in place.

“If you are at least six feet separated from another individual and you’re wearing a face mask, there is less than 1 percent chance of catching (COVID).”

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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