ALBEMARLE — Following a recommendation from the county health department and a 5-1 vote by the school board, Stanly County Schools will enter a two-week period of fully remote learning starting Oct. 14.
“I move we accept the recommendation to go full remote beginning Wednesday, Oct. 14, in order to give parents time to plan, with students returning Monday, Nov. 2 and teachers returning Friday, Oct. 30,” board member Patty Crump motioned in a written statement.
The school board made the decision at an emergency meeting on Oct. 10, choosing to take action due to the recent community spread of COVID-19 within the school system. It was announced this week that a Norwood third-grader tested positive for the virus, only days removed from the virus-related death of a third-grade teacher from the same school.
“Due to increased community spread of COVID-19 and despite the efforts undertaken by the school system thus far, we have a coordinated recommendation from the Stanly County Health Department and Stanly County Schools’ administrative team to go full remote for a two-week period,” Crump’s motion continued.
The lone dissent in the school board’s vote came from Vice Chairman Ryan McIntyre, who vocalized his belief that classrooms should remain open because the current community spread has taken place outside of schools.
SCS Interim Superintendent Vicki Calvert told the board that all SCS employees will go remote and continue to be paid during this period. While the county’s teachers will continue operating their classes, non-teacher employees will be given different assignments and training videos to complete remotely.
The school board’s choice to hold an emergency meeting was influenced by reports from the Stanly County Health Department. In an Oct. 9 press release by the department, headlined, “Don’t become numb to the numbers,” it provided the latest COVID-19 statistics along with context.
As of Oct. 8, the department reported 2,199 total positive cases, 65 deaths and 1,799 individuals who have recovered. In addition, it is actively monitoring 335 positive individuals. An investigation has shown that 76% of cases are attributed to close contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19; in total, 15,249 Stanly County residents have been tested to date.
“Please don’t become complacent,” Stanly County Health and Human Services Director David Jenkins said. “The data show that cases are increasing in the county. In our case investigation we find that people are contracting the virus from friends and family members. We need to continue to be diligent in our prevention efforts. When you follow COVID-19 guidelines you are supporting keeping businesses open and children in schools.”
Beginning on Oct. 14, OptumServe will be hosting free drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Stanly Community College’s Crutchfield Campus in Locust. The tests, provided with or without a prior appointment, are available on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. until Dec. 14.
“We are very appreciative of Stanly Community College’s willingness to provide a location at the western portion of the county to help us better meet the testing needs of the community,” Jenkins said. “We have been working closely with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for several months to bring additional testing to Stanly County and surrounding communities. We are pleased that this is finally coming to fruition.”