Richmond County School System closed a second school this week due to COVID-19. Belair K-8 has shifted to full distance learning starting Friday, Jan. 21. It will not return to in-person instruction until Wednesday, Jan. 26.
As of Friday, Jan. 14, the school had reported 13 COVID-19 positive students, 200 quarantined students, one positive employee and six quarantined employees. The larger school district had reported 151 positive students, 68 positive employees, 841 quarantined students and 125 quarantined employees.
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The district releases updated numbers only on Fridays at rcboe.org/coronavirus.
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School district spokesperson Lynthia Ross said the decision is in response to more staff missing work due, in part, to COVID-19, but clarified that it is not solely based on their dashboard’s data. Both she and Superintendent Kenneth Bradshaw said shifts are based on the total number of staff absences, whether the reason is illness, family leave or those not quarantined by the school who are awaiting test results.
If a school cannot maintain proper education with the staff on hand, the school is closed.
Nevertheless, the increase in COVID-19 school quarantines follows a trend of COVID-19 activity increasing after vacations. Surges have followed each summer/winter vacation since 2020. Over the last two weeks, the Georgia Department of Public Health has reported a spike in new cases that is approximately 10 times higher than it was this time last month.
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Parents with students attending one of the affected schools learned of the shift from a letter sent home on Thursday. Meals will be available for pickup from the side entrance of school cafeterias on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Since schools reopened after the Christmas holiday break, no public schools in Columbia or Aiken counties have closed in-person learning due to COVID-19.