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COVID-19 numbers spike for CHCCS, 103 cases in the first week

A student enters Carrboro High School on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools returned in person last week following weather delays that caused classes to begin a day after anticipated. 

In that first week, there were 103 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff and students, according to CHCCS's COVID-19 data tracker.

Furthermore, as of Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., there were almost 100 new confirmed cases among staff and students in all CHCCS buildings since Monday.

Still, CHCCS plans to remain in-person.

"At this moment in time, we are not considering closures or virtual options, though we consider ourselves prepared to do so in case that need arises," CHCCS Chief Communications Officer Andy Jenks said in an email.

The data tracker is updated manually by district staff as frequently as possible. Generally, cases assigned to a day means that a positive case was confirmed on that day, Jenks said in an email.

Going into the spring of 2022, many guidelines were updated in order to heavily limit the transmission of COVID-19 in schools, including quarantine procedures and mask mandates in line with recommendations with the StrongSchoolsNC toolkit. 

The document outlines that if a student tests positive for COVID-19 on a PCR test can return to school five days after the specimen collection date of their test if they don't display symptoms. If there are symptoms, they can return to school five days after symptoms develop and at least 24 hours after fever symptoms diminish and other symptoms improve. 

Despite these steps, CHCCS students and parents alike had concerns about issues such as record-high COVID-19 numbers, test shortages, students who are too young to be vaccinated and learning accommodations for students in quarantine. 

Eddie Bassett, a senior at Chapel Hill High School, said he believes that while the district is “overall pretty good,” it has taken a "death stance" on keeping schools open despite dangers of the virus. 

“The best word I could use is confusion on why there aren’t these options that we know we can implement because we’ve done it before,” Bassett said.

He emphasized his concern that, even though COVID-19 numbers are surging country-wide, the district has still decided that schools will remain open for in-person instruction.

CHCCS also emphasized in an update last Friday that, per Senate Bill 654, which was signed by Gov. Cooper on Aug. 30, 2021, they can temporarily shift classrooms to virtual learning when need be, but cannot shift to remote instruction district-wide. 

For students with COVID-19 who are isolating at home, Jenks said that they will have communication with their nurse as well as all of their teachers in order to be up to date on protocols and classwork. 

While there are currently some virtual learning programs, students who started out in person cannot transfer to virtual learning and vice versa.

“You simply stay in communication with your teachers who will provide you the necessary support while you’re at home,” Jenks concluded. “That’s fairly common with other illnesses that might cause a student to miss school.” 

Madison Lin, student government president at CHHS, said people are starting to take extra precautions, such as wearing more protective masks and that the school has been making announcements to remind students to distance and cover their faces. 

“I definitely feel like the school is handling it to the best of their ability,” she said. “Students are doing, in my opinion, a really good job of keeping their masks on.”

Jenks said the district is monitoring the latest conditions. 

“Things are frequently subject to change,” said Jenks. “We can adopt different approaches, but it’s always done with the safety of all of our families, students and staff in mind.”

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated quarantine and vaccination status policy procedures across Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. The article has been updated to reflect accurate policies in effect across the district. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.  

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