Bladen Co. Schools superintendent says activity outside of school generates recent COVID-19 cases

Another school closes in Bladen County

BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - After three Bladen County Schools are closed due to coronavirus outbreaks, the district’s superintendent says the cases have not originated from the schools.

“We haven’t had any cases that have actually been contracted in the schools,” said Dr. Robert Taylor, Bladen County Schools Superintendent. “A person engages in some type of activity outside of our workplace and then they come to school and they’ve been identified as positive.”

Since October 16, three schools have shut their doors due to COVID-19 cases: Dublin Primary School, East Arcadia Elementary, and Bladenboro Middle.

Dr. Taylor said since August, there have been ten positive COVID-19 cases. They have been employees of various positions within the school system.

Instead of having those who test positive and those who come in contact with a positive case quarantine, Dr. Taylor has decided to close each school for two weeks.

“When we make a decision about the school, it has everything to do with if we have enough faculty and staff to properly supervise children,” said Dr. Taylor. “If we have a case that’s positive, we have a contact tracing that causes too large of a number of people to be out that we can’t effectively supervise all the children that are there.” He went on to say the employee availability doesn’t always have to do with the virus.

“When we look at the availability of employees, we do want our community to understand that it is not 100% COVID,” said Dr. Taylor. “We could have six faculty members that are out at a large school and then others that are out due to contact tracing or infections. And when you combine all of those things, that makes it difficult for your school to be able to supervise children."

On Oct. 1, the school board made the decision to move forward with Plan A for primary schools and Plan B for middle and high schools starting Oct. 19,“ assuming continued positive public health trends in the county," according to a press release from the school system sent on Oct. 2. Dr. Taylor says the new phase will continue despite the recent cases and closures.

“We don’t have any plans of changing what we’re doing with student attendance—our school attendance—but at any point, the metrics change where cases go up. Or, if we don’t have the available employees where we can host school, then we would certainly make a change and move backwards if necessary,” said Dr. Taylor.

While the schools are closed, students and teachers will continue their work online.

“We want to remind everybody, it’s not that the school is infected,” said Dr. Taylor. “It’s just a simple fact that we don’t have enough staff available at the operating school to properly supervise children and provide proper instruction in a face-to-face setting. So as a result, we end up going to virtual. So, those students are still in school, those teachers are still working; it’s just all being done virtually like we did at the beginning of the year.”

Dr. Taylor said to help prevent these closures from continuing, parents, staff, and students need to keep health at the top of mind.

“Follow protocols. Don’t send your children to school sick,” said Dr. Taylor. “To employees in the school district: don’t come to work if you’re feeling sick. And, this is what I would urge everybody in our community—if it was with the school system, with your private company or whatever the case may be—if you are feeling sick, then you need to insulate yourself and do not put yourself around other people and put them in danger, or at risk.

“When you go out into public, you’ve got to take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe,” said Dr. Taylor. “You got to avoid being a part of what we call super spreader events.” He said he asks that employees of the Bladen County School system make smart decisions during their off time to help prevent the spread of the virus and more closures within the school system.

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