More than one-fourth of Stanly County Schools students, staff were quarantined last week

Published 4:04 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Amid the current omicron surge, Stanly County Schools has reported the largest number of students and staff who have tested positive for the coronavirus and quarantined since the school year began.

The school system reported 2,664 students and staff were quarantined last week, according to updated data from the district’s COVID-19 online dashboard. That is more than double the number quarantined the first week of January and a 223 percent increase from the 825 who were out of school a month ago, right before the holiday break.

The total accounts for more than one-fourth of the approximately 9,400 students and staff across the district.

Thirteen of the 23 schools had at least 100 people quarantined, with three having more than 200 — the first time the threshold has been crossed. West Stanly Middle School had 282 people quarantined, the highest total in the district, followed by Albemarle Middle with 252 and Central Elementary with 220. To illustrate how quickly the virus has spread, both West Stanly and Central had less than 65 people out of school the previous week.

Every school experienced a week-to-week increase in its quarantine totals, with four schools reporting more than 100 people out of school.

SCS also reported 485 people, including 401 students, were positive last week for COVID-19, the highest total this school year. The total represents a 109 percent increase from the week of Jan. 2, when 232 people were positive.

Eighteen schools had more than 10 positive cases, up from 10 schools the previous week, with five having more than 30. Albemarle Middle had 49 people positive, 10 more than the next closest, which was West Stanly Middle.

Several schools last week had to switch to remote learning due to staff shortages and students missing time because of quarantine and four of the high schools — Albemarle, South Stanly, North Stanly and West Stanly — posted on Facebook that they will be operating remotely once school resumes on Thursday and Friday.

Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, the majority of the state’s public school districts have switched back to requiring face masks. As of Wednesday, 85 of North Carolina’s 115 school districts require face coverings, according to a database maintained by the N.C. School Boards Association.

Masks are still optional in Stanly County, though Stanly County Health Department Director David Jenkins said he recommended the school system switch back to requiring face masks during a work session with school board members last week.

As of now, no plans are in place to reverse the district’s mask optional plan, which has been around since late October.

“I am not aware of any board meetings that will be scheduled to discuss masking between now and the regular February board meeting,” Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis said Wednesday afternoon.

The increase in cases across the district comes at a time when the county is also experiencing record levels of Covid-19 cases. Stanly County recorded more than 1,200 new cases last week, the first time in the pandemic the total has exceeded 1,000. So far this week (Saturday through Thursday), the health department has reported almost 1,400 new cases.

The county’s percent positivity has also reached an all-time high of 38 percent as of Thursday. This means that for each coronavirus test performed, at least one out of every three have been coming back positive.

Though cases have been surging, hospitalizations have remained relatively stable. A total of 29 people were hospitalized on Thursday, roughly the same as the 30 people in the hospital on Jan. 10, the highest daily total since mid-September.

Beginning next week, SCS is set to begin enrollment in Duke University’s voluntary test-to-stay program, to cut down on quarantines and to help keep more students and staff in school. Other local districts, including Cabarrus and Gaston counties, are also part of the program.

Participants with the program who are 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 earlier this month.

Under the state’s new relaxed health rules, students who test positive for COVID-19 or who have been exposed to the virus can return to school after five days. But students returning to school are supposed to wear a mask for at least five days.

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