DANBURY – The Stokes County School Board spoke of masks, clusters and quarantines – the COVID-19 lineup – at its meeting on Tuesday morning, but the main area of concern was the three schools that
DANBURY – The Stokes County School Board spoke of masks, clusters and quarantines – the COVID-19 lineup – at its meeting on Tuesday morning, but the main area of concern was the three schools that were forced to shut down move away this week.
Superintendent Dr Brad Rice offered board members “breaking news” as he received information about a third county school that is experiencing a COVID “cluster” and is temporarily shutting down.
Piney Grove Middle School joins King Elementary School and Southeastern Stokes Middle School as schools to transition to distance learning until at least Friday, and they will then be reassessed.
“My phone has been vibrating since we sat here,” Dr Rice said.
Rice also distributed a packet of information he had just updated before the morning meeting. He showed 53 active cases among students and six cases among staff. He noted that the 53 cases of active students were down from 74 on Saturday. But his data also showed that the number of student cases has increased every day over the past week, as have staff cases.
As of August 1, the school system has registered 109 positive cases among students and 12 among staff. The vast majority of cases were from exposure in the community, not from exposure at school. But in the past two weeks, both categories have risen sharply, with more than 400 students quarantined due to school exposure and 145 due to community exposure.
Rice said he knew of staff members who contracted COVID after being vaccinated, including one who had been hospitalized.
Rice decided last week that all students and staff should wear masks at school because children under 12 are too young to be vaccinated. “We have to play the cards that are given to us,” said Mike Rogers, board member.
Member Von Robertson said he didn’t like wearing masks “but it’s a necessary step right now to try to bring the numbers down.”
“By the end of this week, we expect things to slow down with the mask wearing,” Rice said. “The masks mean we don’t have to quarantine.”
He referred to the football matches and other large gatherings over the weekend, especially the Luke Combs concert at the Boone Football Stadium which was packed with nearly 40,000 fans. Things like that make contact tracing very difficult, he said. “I might know who I was sitting next to at church, but not at the Mayflower.”
Dr Rice also offered a very understandable illustration of COVID precautions. “For those who say masks don’t work or vaccines don’t work, they’re right,” Rice began. “None are 100% effective. It’s like Swiss cheese. It’s 80 percent cheese, but there are holes in it. But if you stack multiple slices, you don’t see a lot of holes. So masks, social distancing, hand washing, if you pile it all up, you’ve got a pretty good barrier. “
The council has also spent a good deal of its time discussing how to teach students remotely at these schools that have been quarantined with Dr Sam Jones, principal of West Stokes.
In other cases, the Board of Education:
● Discussed the late bus problem during the first week of school with new Director of Transportation Matt Tedder. Dr Rice said his own son arrived an hour after school started on the first day after the bus driver got lost. “Transportation is always extremely difficult for the first few days,” he said. “It takes three or four days to calm down. But we’re in good shape now. Tedder noted that there are still several vacancies among bus drivers, but several are in preparation to take the required course. He also mentions that if anyone is interested in becoming a bus driver, contact them. Tedder said the process takes about a month.
● Approved a change in policy that will now allow college cheerleaders to travel out of county to attend non-conference games.
● Approved the plan to improve socio-emotional learning and mental health at school.
● Heard about the county’s debt repayment plans.
● I’ve learned that overall attendance is down about 50 from last year. Transfers into the system stand at 397 new enrollments, mostly in the West Stokes area, while transfers out of schools in Stokes County are at 273.
● Discussion of new General Assembly legislation that includes a requirement that school boards “vote at least once a month on whether the face covering policy should be changed.”
● Received a report from Anna McGee on “Essential Languages for Reading and Spelling Teachers” or LETRS. The program teaches K-5 teachers about the latest research on how children learn to read, which was approved by the state legislature in April. McGee said it would add an additional one to three hours for teachers each week. “I’m worried about this,” Dr Rice replied. “But again, we have no choice on this.”
● Approved an offer of $ 181,300 from AAR from North Carolina to replace the roof of Nancy Reynolds’ gymnasium.
● Approved the staff report.