More than 1,000 SCS teachers and students quarantined last week amid Omicron surge

Published 10:18 am Thursday, January 13, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The spread of COVID-19 reported within Stanly County Schools has rocketed to highs not seen in several months.

The school system reported 1,127 students and staff quarantined last week, according to updated data from the district’s COVID-19 online dashboard. That is a 37 percent increase from the 825 reported the week before the winter break and the highest tally since more than 1,400 were reported out of school in mid-September.

The total accounts for about 12 percent of the roughly 9,400 students and staff across the district.

Albemarle Middle School, which transitioned on Tuesday to remote learning for the remainder of the week, had 123 people quarantined, the highest total in the district and a 232 percent from the week of Dec. 12, when only 37 people were out.

Other schools with high numbers of quarantines for last week included Locust Elementary with 88, Stanly Stanly High with 82, Norwood Elementary with 73 and Central Elementary with 64.

Of the 23 schools, all but four had at least 20 people quarantined, with 11 having more than 50 people missing from school.

Only eight schools saw a reduction in their quarantine totals, including West Stanly Middle, which had 54, down from 91, and Central, which had 64, down from 96.

With such a shortage of available staff, several school board members, including chairwoman Glenda Gibson, volunteered their time at schools this week helping to feed children, wash dishes and perform custodial tasks.

SCS also reported 232 people, including 192 students, were positive last week for COVID-19, the highest total this school year. For the week of Dec. 12, there were only 53 positive cases.

Ten schools reported at least 10 positive cases, with Albemarle Middle having the highest with 18 students and two staff members having been infected. Other schools with high totals include Central and Albemarle High, each with 17 positives, and Norwood and West Stanly High, each with 16.

“If it gets to the point to where we don’t have enough staff or if it’s a safety issue where we don’t have enough coverage, you may have classes that have to go virtual,” Superintendent Jarrod Dennis said last week.

The state recorded 44,833 new cases on Thursday, the highest daily count on record, and 4,275 people as of Wednesday are receiving hospital care for the virus, the highest total since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020.

The Stanly County Health Department reported 900 new cases last week, the highest caseload during the pandemic — and there were 225 new cases on Wednesday, a daily record. The county’s percent positive rate has exploded to almost 26 percent, meaning that for each coronavirus test performed, about one out of every four are currently coming back positive.

To help cut down on quarantines and keep students and staff in school, beginning next week, the district is planning to enroll in Duke University’s voluntary test-to-stay program, where people exposed to the virus can remain in school, provided they test negative multiple times during the first week of exposure and wear a mask for 10 days. The school board approved of the decision during its meeting last week.

SCS would be part of the second iteration of the program for school districts with voluntary masking. The first took place over six weeks and involved 367 participants from five school districts and one charter school with universal mask mandates.

According to data from Duke’s ABC Science Collaborative, the initial study found testing children exposed to COVID-19 rather than sending them into quarantine right away saved more than 1,600 school days from being missed and resulted in a transmission rate of about 2 percent.

When it comes to other schools in the county, Gray Stone Day School has about 65 students and teachers out on quarantine protocol while Pfeiffer University has 20 active cases, according to its website. The health department has also confirmed that several child care facilities have been impacted by quarantine and isolation protocols.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

email author More by Chris