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Education

Stanly County Schools To Go Virtual Through October After Teacher Dies From COVID-19

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Stanly County Schools will revert to all-remote learning through the end of October as the school system attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19 cases among staff and students.

The decision also follows the death of Norwood Elementary schoolteacher Julie Davis, who died on Sunday, 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19.

Under the plan approved by the school board at an emergency meeting Saturday, the school system will switch to all-remote learning on Wednesday, Oct. 14, with students returning Monday, Nov. 2 and teachers returning Friday, Oct. 30.

The motion passed 5-1, with Vice Chairman Ryan McIntyre voting against. Chairman Melvin Poole did not vote on the motion.

The vote was taken after board members heard from Stanly County's Health Director, David Jenkins, who recommended the school system switch to remote learning for at least two weeks.

He said the move would allow the school system to "conduct a more deep cleaning" and "tighten up some of our policies and procedures for the screening of visitors and the staff and faculty."

According to Jenkins, the health department had learned through case investigators that some schools had been inconsistently screening people entering school buildings, and some school staff were working with symptoms.

"Obviously, that's very concerning for trying to work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," he said.

Jenkins also said some parents were refusing to allow their students to be tested for COVID-19, further complicating the health department's efforts.

Patricia Hancock, nursing supervisor for the health department, also gave an update on rising numbers of COVID-19 cases within schools around the county.

Hancock said there were no COVID-19 cases tied to schools in Stanly County for the week of Sept. 7. That number rose to six during the week of Sept. 14 and the week of Sept. 21, then rose again to 18 the week of Sept. 28. The health department is still calculating case totals for the week of Oct. 5.

Stanly County Schools had just brought elementary school students back for Monday-Thursday in-person instruction on Oct. 5. Middle and high school students were operating on a hybrid schedule with students rotating between in-person and remote learning. All grade levels had remote learning on Fridays.

Also at Saturday's board meeting, Beverly Pennington, director of student services and athletics, said she had been in contact with an investigator from the North Carolina Department of Labor. She said the investigator had completed her investigation into the death of the Norwood Elementary schoolteacher, and it was her findings that the death was not a workforce-related incident.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Labor said the investigation remained open and its findings could not yet be confirmed.

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