• 70°

School system navigates COVID-19 cases

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Chilton County Schools resumed classes nearly two weeks ago with detailed COVID-19 precautions in place.

Whenever possible students’ desks have been spaced six feet from each other. Masks are also being required.

“Some social distancing is just impossible in a classroom,” Chrysta Russell, lead nurse for CCS, said. “If you have a classroom of 25-30 students there is no way physically, that you could get six feet apart for everyone, but for the most part students are using their masks.”

Masks are required to be worn at all times, except for eating or exercise. Seating charts have been submitted to help determine who has been exposed to anyone confirmed to have COVID-19.

During the first week of school, there were about 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases among students and staff. Russell estimates there have been an additional 1 to 3 cases per day since then.

She said there are “many, many more” than have been quarantined because they have been within six feet for 15 minutes of someone who tested positive.

Numbers of confirmed cases will be published for each school system by the Alabama Department of Public Health. Chilton County Schools Superintendent Jason Griffin said a link to this information will be placed on the Chilton County Schools website (chilton.k12.al.us) when it becomes available.

Chilton County Schools has about 5,000 students attending in person classes and 850 employees. (About 30 % of students are doing online learning.) Griffin said he felt good about the low number of positive cases compared to the overall school system population.

“If we have someone who has a positive result, then we are able to tell who was within six feet of them, usually north, south, east and west of them in their classroom,” Russell said.

Seating charts for buses have also been formulated.

Precautions are also being taken in the hallway.

“We are changing classes like normal,” Roslyn Driver, Chilton County High School nurse, said.

“We have administrators in the hallways between classes to ensure that those students are staying on the correct side of the hallway, so we are trying to prevent the lines from crossing as much as possible.”

CCHS students are picking up lunch in the cafeteria one class at a time, but eating lunch in a classroom.

Physical education classes are required to space out more than six feet since students are not wearing masks when exercising.

“Not all positive tests ever came to school,” Russell said. “They may have known that they were not feeling well and got to their doctor and had a test (and never came to school) … Just because you saw a thing on Facebook that somebody had it does not mean that your child was exposed.”

She said even those who have been close to someone with COVID-19 will not automatically get the virus, but quarantining is the best way to decrease the chances of the virus spreading.

“Quarantine is not a punishment for our students,” Griffin said. “It is a protective measure for the health and safety of all involved.”

Those who have had tested positive for COVID-19 are required to stay at home in isolation under the health department guideline. The ADHP has a list of resources to help people get what they need without leaving the house.

However, for those who have been within six feet for 15 minutes within the past two-days are required to quarantine “for 14 days … it could be incubating inside that person and usually within the time exposure of 14 days, they could become COVID positive,” Russell said.

The 15 minutes is considered as a cumulative number over the course of a day.

“They need to be quarantining at home, not going anywhere, not exposing others because you just don’t know when they might start having symptoms,” Russell said.

Having a COVID-19 test come back negative will not shorten the required quarantine time for someone without symptoms, Russell said.

Family members of those in quarantine are not required to quarantine but are encouraged to distance themselves from the person who has been close to someone with COVID-19, Driver said.

Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 during quarantine is encouraged to contact their doctor. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, symptoms of COVID-19 include fever (100.4 or greater), cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

More information is available at covid19.alabama.gov.

Students or staff members in quarantine that develop symptoms need to notify the school system.

“If they start having symptoms, they would need to start their 10-day countdown from the day they started having symptoms or the day they had a positive test,” Russell said.

Family members of those who develop symptoms are asked to follow the quarantine guidelines.