New COVID policies at Stanly schools after 1,500 students quarantined

Meals will no longer be considered in contact tracing

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

ALBEMARLE — Stanly County Schools updated their COVID-19 quarantine policies after the number of students required to take time off school rose dramatically in the first few weeks of classes. The new policies keep more students in school by requiring extra precautions during meals, allowing the district to avoid considering mealtimes while contact tracing for exposure.  

According to the COVID case and quarantine data on the district’s website, for the week of Aug. 22-28, there were 418 students quarantined for exposure, with 65 of them testing positive, and 67 staff quarantined, with 18 of them positive.  

Shortly after, for the week of Sept. 5-11, there were 1,498 students under quarantine, with 143 of them testing positive. This showed the number of those quarantining rising much quicker than the positive rates. For staff, the quarantines increased only slightly to 82, and the positive tests dropped slightly from 18 to 14.  

The schools with the highest number of quarantined students were East Albemarle Elementary 152; West Stanly High with 140; West Stanly Middle with 123; and North Stanly High with 121.  

On Sept. 16, the district announced it was taking extra precautions during breakfast and lunch, a move that would help reduce the number of students needing to be quarantined. Since mealtimes are a common time for students in many different classes to mingle, contact tracing that considers these times had likely led to many of the exposure determinations.  

“Due to these additional strategies, breakfast and lunch will no longer be considered during contact tracing for K-12 students,” the district’s announcement said.  

The announcement also described an option they are making available for a shortened quarantine period of seven days rather than 14 days. The option, which is only available upon request, allows a student to take a COVID test on the fifth day of quarantine and, if the result comes back negative, they can return to school after the seventh day.  

A Sept. 7 Stanly County Board of Education meeting had extended public comment from parents and other residents on the issue. Many commenters pushed back on board members who said at the beginning of the school year that masks were being required to keep students in class, asking why so many were being quarantined if the masks were supposed to prevent that. Others were upset by sports teams being quarantined and games canceled.  

“Athletics is a big factor in quarantines thus far,” Stanly Schools Superintendent Jarrod Dennis said at the meeting. “We have two cheerleading teams and six football teams [impacted].”