Some Stanly schools announce remote learning amid omicron outbreak

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

ALBEMARLE — On Jan. 13, Stanly County Schools announced that a spike in COVID cases and quarantines has made operating district schools nearly impossible, and that in response, many of these schools will be going remote. 

“Be Advised: Some of our schools are moving to a remote learning schedule due to the current rising rate of absenteeism and quarantining requirements for our staff and students,” the announcement said.  

The massive spike in omicron cases can be seen on the district’s COVID-19 dashboard. For the week of Nov. 21 to 27, only nine students and three staff tested positive for the illness. A little over a month later, there are 192 students and 40 staff positive for COVID-19.  

The positive tests by themselves are not what is causing the district’s problems keeping the schools running, though. Many more staff are out due to quarantines. In the late November numbers, 237 students and 19 staff were quarantined, but in the early January numbers, that was up to 988 students and 139 staff quarantined.  

Staffing for bus drivers, cafeteria workers and substitute teachers, which was already experiencing severe strain this school year, is now at a breaking point. 

“We are approaching a critical point for operational effectiveness for face-to-face instruction,” the SCS press release said. “We are monitoring this situation and decisions may be made in response to the overall welfare of our staff and students.”  

On Monday, Jan. 17, reports by parents on social media indicate that some of these schools have begun notifying them that they would be in remote learning or taking teacher work days. West Stanly Middle School, North Stanly High School and Albemarle High School were among these schools.  

Due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday, those schools announcing no in-person classes for the week would not have to account for Monday.  

Albemarle Middle School had the highest number of students quarantined for the week of Jan. 2 to 8, at 111, and also the most staff quarantined, with 12. Of those, 18 students and two staff tested positive.  

On the Albemarle Middle Facebook page, they announced that they would not be having in-person instruction for the rest of the week, with Tuesday and Wednesday being teacher work days and Thursday and Friday remote-learning days.  

The district press release had indicated these announcements from schools would be likely this week, ending their statement by saying, “If school schedules change, parents and students will be notified by email and phone messages.”