ANDERSON — Within the first week of classes at Anderson Community Schools, at least 11 students have tested positive for COVID-19, and several classes at different schools within the district are being quarantined because of a close contact.
The quarantines began Thursday with a third grade class at Tenth Street Elementary School and will continue for 10 calendar days from each class’ quarantine start. Other classes and schools with students that have been quarantined are four classes at Valley Grove Elementary, a third grade class at Eastside Elementary and a fifth grade class at Anderson Intermediate School.
“When we are informed that a student has tested positive for COVID-19, we immediately require them to stay home and move to virtual instruction,” said Brad Meadows, director of district and community engagement for ACS. “Based on the information we have received, each of the staff members and students testing positive contracted the virus while outside of our school buildings.”
Valley Grove Elementary Principal Melissa Illuzzi sent a message to parents in Carol Phillips’ second grade class this weekend. The message said there was a positive COVID-19 case in the class and all students in the class must quarantine for 10 calendar days from their last exposure.
Illuzzi said students will not be able to attend classes in person this week.
“These students will be provided a packet of review and grade-level work to be completed before returning to school on Monday, Aug. 9,” Illuzzi said in the message to students.
Illuzzi said if quarantined students become ill with coldlike symptoms, the information should be reported to the school, and siblings attending any school should stay home as well “in order to not infect another classroom.”
Students at the elementary level who were told to quarantine will move to virtual instruction and that instruction will continue with the same teacher.
“We continue to monitor closely COVID-19 numbers and updated guidance from the Madison County Health Department,” said Meadows in an email.
Several posts are circulating on social media platforms stating that ACS is talking about returning to hybrid and virtual-only classes. Some of the posts claim “nearly half” of a class at the district’s D26 career center were quarantined and students are being sent home with no information for parents.
School officials did not confirm or deny some of the social media posts.
“We continue to post our COVID-19 numbers weekly but for privacy reasons we do not share individual names of teachers or students testing positive for COVID-19 or that have temporarily gone to virtual instruction,” Meadows said in the email about the district’s policy on COVID exposure.
He said there has been no change to the 2021-22 reentry plan approved by the school board in July. ACS is allowing students to attend in-person classes with masks optional.
“Meaning, while a virtual option is available to students, there are no plans to return to total virtual education, nor a hybrid model at this time,” he said. “Should there be updates to this plan we will communicate them to parents/guardians.”
Students riding buses to school are required to wear a mask during transportation due to federal guidelines.
The same week ACS students returned to school, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance and recommended that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors if they are in a public setting and transmission of COVID is substantial or high.
“The masking recommendation was updated to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones,” according to a CDC news release.
Studies show the delta strain of COVID-19 is surging across the nation and vaccinated people may be able to transmit the virus to unvaccinated people. The vaccine can prevent the vaccinated from getting seriously ill or dying from the virus, according to the agency.
The CDC also urges people to get the vaccine even if they have already tested positive for COVID-19.
“Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19,” the CDC website states.