More than 150 Barrow County School System students were sent home from or kept out of school from Sept. 24-30 due to coronavirus concerns, and more than half of those were at Yargo Elementary School, according to the district’s latest weekly COVID-19 update released Thursday, Oct. 1.
Of the 154 students impacted over that weeklong period, three had confirmed-positive tests, one was quarantined as a “probable” case of COVID-19, and the remaining 150 were quarantined as a precaution due to direct contact with someone with a confirmed-positive or probable case.
It was not clear Thursday how many of those students had been able to return to their school. The district is not disclosing that information, as officials have noted the amount of time a student has to quarantine varies depending on whether they exhibit symptoms and other factors.
During the same weeklong period from Sept. 24-30, five staff members tested positive for COVID-19, six were quarantined due to a probable case, and 17 were out due to direct contact with someone with a positive or probable case.
The number of students out due to coronavirus-related concerns for the past reporting week (154) was more than double the number from the previous week of Sept. 17-23 (69). The number of impacted staffers dipped slightly from 31 to 28.
According to the latest data, Yargo Elementary had 81 students impacted over the past week, including 42 on Sept. 24, 21 on Tuesday, Sept. 29, and 17 on Wednesday, Sept. 30. Kennedy Elementary had 18 students impacted on Sept. 30, Winder-Barrow High School had 16 students impacted Sept. 28, and Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy had 13 students impacted Sept. 30.
Those tallies came after Bear Creek Middle School had 27 students impacted on Sept. 22. That school had two additional students impacted since then — one each on Sept. 24 and Sept. 25.
School district officials have declined to release further numbers about the student impacts at the schools, citing privacy concerns and multiple factors associated with contact-tracing.
Officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health have said they won’t publicly disclose details about any outbreaks at schools that are being investigated, but have requested that all public schools submit weekly reports. The discretion has been left up to individual school districts to share with their communities the impact of COVID-19 on their facilities and, while the approach has varied widely across the state, Barrow County has gone further than a handful of surrounding districts by disclosing the number of impacted students at each individual school.
The parent of any student who has a positive/probable case or has close contact with either is contacted immediately by the school with a phone call and follow-up letter, according to a district spokesperson. Students not effected are not contacted.
According to the district’s cumulative totals, 43 staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 283 others have quarantined as a precaution since July 27, when pre-planning for the 2020-21 academic year began at school campuses. Since instruction began Aug. 17, 13 students have tested positive and 257 more have been kept out of school as a precaution. The handful of students who tested positive or had to quarantine before Aug. 17 were limited to those who were participating in sports or other extra-curricular activities.
The district began the school year entirely online Aug. 17, transitioned to a hybrid in-person/online model Sept. 8 with each grade split into two cohorts, and then moved to five days a week in the school buildings Sept. 21 as the reported spread of COVID-19 in the community (average of new daily cases per 100,000) has steadily declined to more favorable levels.
About 26 percent of the district’s roughly 14,100 students are participating entirely in distance learning. Students were given the option to transition either at the end of the first nine weeks or the first semester, depending on their grade level.
Even with the improved outlook of late, district officials have braced for the virus to continue to have an impact in the school buildings and have cautioned they may have to move back to a hybrid instructional model or possibly enact temporary closures if the local situation worsens again.
The district has implemented face mask mandates and several other mitigation measures at each of its schools and facilities in an effort to continue providing in-person instruction, and 140 staffers have received contact-tracing training through a Johns Hopkins University program as part of an effort to prevent large outbreaks from occurring.