"We must keep our guard up"

City, county schools provide COVID-19 update

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Cases of COVID-19 are still being reported in Walker County Schools, and Jasper City Schools has seen a slight uptick in confirmed cases.

As of last week, the Jasper City Board of Education had four students in Pre-K through 12th-grade test positive for coronavirus, as well as six employees. Only one of the employees was a classroom teacher.

Forty students and/or staff quarantined due to close contact exposure to COVID-19.

In the Daily Mountain Eagle's last report on Oct. 9, there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus within the school system and only 20 people had quarantined.

"Yes, we have seen our numbers rise a little but not more than we had anticipated," Jasper City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Jackson said. "Overall, we are still doing well with keeping our numbers low. Our positives tend to be within families or same households."

The school system shared this week that Wednesdays will remain distance learning days through the remainder of the first semester in order to deep clean schools mid-week.

Jackson admits district leaders had hoped more activities could occur and strides could be made at this point to return to some level of normalcy; however, as cases of COVID-19 have begun increasing again across the country, a more strict approach to curbing the spread must continue.    

"With the recent uptick in positive cases statewide, nationwide, and globally, we will not be transitioning to a more moderate approach," Jackson said. "We had hoped by now that we could allow for more transitions, parent conferences, library checkouts, field trips, etc."

She continued, "That's OK though, if it helps keep our students and teachers remain safe, then it's worth the inconvenience. We want to continue to ask our parents to be the first line of defense and not send students to school sick. We all have Corona fatigue, but we must keep our guard up and keep practicing all of the suggested guidelines and safety precautions."

The city school system recently received a shipment of air purifiers that will be installed in 200 classrooms to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The purifiers are designed to "purify down to the airborne virus particulate," according to Jackson.  

In Walker County Schools, 16 students were positive for COVID-19 as of Monday morning (Oct. 19), and nine staff members had tested positive. A total of 331 students were in quarantine due to close contact exposure, as well as 24 staff members.

The number of positive cases for faculty, staff, and students combined represents .32 percent of the school system as a whole, and those in quarantine represent 4.5 percent of the school system.

In the Daily Mountain Eagle's last report on Oct. 13, only 187 students and 26 staff members were in quarantine due to close contact exposure. The numbers represented statistics from the week of Oct. 5-9.

Walker County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood addressed the fact that Carbon Hill High School's football team is forfeiting this week's football game due to COVID-19 concerns. 

"Carbon Hill High School has six students who tested positive and 69 close contacts," Hagood said. "The number of those quarantined is largely due to team sports. These sports create groupings of students and require a 'close contact' quarantine."

He added that the school also has three faculty/staff members who have tested positive for coronavirus as well.  

Hagood said confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the number of people having to quarantine remain higher at the county's high schools. 

"The numbers quarantined will always be higher at our high schools because a large number of their students drive, more participate in extracurricular activities, etc.," Hagood said. "These students will always have more opportunity to contract the virus or become quarantined due to close contact, simply because of their mobility and increased outside of school interaction with the public-at-large."

As a precautionary measure, the school system canceled scheduled parent visitations this week due to COVID-19 concerns.

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For more education news from the Daily Mountain Eagle, visit http://www.mountaineagle.com/education.