How Durham Public Schools will handle COVID-19 cases that pop up during school year

COVID-19 and schools

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham Public Schools has one COVID-19 cluster heading into the traditional school year.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Easley Elementary School had nine cases as of last Tuesday.

When there’s a positive case in Durham Public Schools, the district’s spokesperson Chip Sudderth said the first step is contact tracing and notifying close contacts. The state toolkit for schools said a close contact is being within six feet of someone for 15 minutes or longer within a 24-hour time frame.

“We make sure that everybody surrounding the student or person who tested positive were wearing masks like these correctly,” Sudderth said.

Sudderth said if both the exposed and positive students are wearing masks, the exposed one does not need to quarantine but is still notified so they can get tested.

If masks are off, Sudderth said they need to quarantine for 7-10 days.

He said the district robocalls all families in the school, providing few details about the case.

“Just because we’re notifying you about a case in the school doesn’t mean that that case was in the classroom, was at the opposite end of the school,” Sudderth said. “If this case was anywhere near your child, if your child was a close contact, we will let you know directly.”

Courtney Hexter is the parent of two students. She said her children are excited to return to the classroom.

She said she thinks it will be challenging to know about all cases in a school, but she would like to.

“I would like to know, for sure, that my child is in the same room with a positive case, but I believe that it won’t actually be what we’re told,” Hexter said. “I think that what we’ve heard is that they’re going to tell us if it’s a close contact.”

Sudderth said the district is trying to balance notifying parents and the privacy of individual students.

When it comes to sports, Sudderth said the same quarantine rules apply to those students. Enough close contacts will lead to a cancelation.

Sudderth said there are cases of entire classes having to go virtual, but not an entire school.

In the Wake County Public School System, there are nine COVID-19 clusters. A spokesperson for WCPSS said the district’s COVID-19 protocol is also the same when it comes to athletes, and that football could be impacted if the number of players in quarantine affects the team’s ability to compete.

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