A COVID-19 update from Chatham’s schools

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There have been 242 cumulative cases of COVID-19 reported to Chatham County Schools since Aug. 23, according to the district’s case dashboard Wednesday afternoon, making up 2.3% of the district’s total population. There were six active cases, or .06% of the district.

CCS has only had one cluster — defined as five or more cases that are epidemiologically related within a 14-day window — at Chatham Central High School, reported during the second week of classes. A second cluster at Northwood was included in the state health department’s child care and school settings report three weeks ago, but it was later deemed to be erroneous and removed from the list.

Next week, CCS will begin offering free weekly COVID-19 tests to students and staff beginning with K-5 students. The rapid results tests, administered by Raleigh-based Mako Medical, are set to expand to middle schoolers the week of Nov. 1 and to high schoolers the week of Nov. 8. To be tested, a parent or guardian must provide a one-time consent for any student under 18, available through the links on the district’s website.

“We want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect our students,” Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson said in a district statement when the testing was announced. “We want to keep our students in school. Testing is another tool at our disposal to help us mitigate the spread of the virus, which will allow us to continue to work toward our goal of an uninterrupted school year.”

The cost of the testing program is completely covered by a grant.

Health experts have long encouraged consistent testing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, in addition to universal mask wearing — which the CCS Board of Education again voted to require on all its campuses at its meeting last Monday. The district said it hopes providing weekly testing will help keep students in school, athletics and after-school activities.

There haven’t been any clusters reported among the county’s public charter schools — Willow Oak Montessori, Woods Charter School and Chatham Charter School — in the state report. Each school also has an indoor mask mandate, and Woods and Chatham Charter have COVID-19 trackers on their websites.

There have been eight positive cases among Woods Charters students and zero among teachers since the first day of class, according to the school’s tracker. Woods Charter has 512 students, according to its website. Chatham Charter has had 20 positive cases among students and 1 case among teachers, according to its online tracker, since its first day of class on Aug. 11. Chatham Charter has approximately 560 students. (CCS has about 8,800.)

The News + Record did not find trackers on the sites of Chatham’s private schools, but according to the state report, no clusters have been reported among those schools either.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.

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