HENDERSON — Some Vance County Schools parents are voicing their concerns about in-person learning as the first half of the 2021-21 academic year unfolds during the continued pandemic.
Clarke Elementary School parent Jaleesa Hargrove spoke about her concerns with in-person learning. Hargrove says her son came home first with a fever and runny nose, and tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after. She says her daughter did not test positive and returned to school, but then came home sick.
Her daughter later tested positive for COVID-19 as well and later told her that she did go to the nurse’s office, but was given a cough drop and water and sent back to class for the remainder of the day. She says she was upset that the nurse or school did not make her aware that her daughter went to the nurse’s office.
“I know we can’t avoid it 100%, but they need to take better measures because if they contacted me, I would have come to get my daughter,” Hargrove said.
Hargrove says her concerns involve COVID-19 numbers rising, parents not alerting the school their child tested positive, and that the numbers are not being documented.
Hargrove says she’s also concerned about in-person learning and would rather keep her children home.
She is not the only parent who’s contacted The Dispatch in recent days to voice concern. A E.M. Rollins Elementary parent has said after her children tested positive, she called the school to let someone know, but received no response.
Both parents indicated that they want to place their children in remote learning. But there’s a roadblock because the district is offering remote learning through the Vance Virtual Village Academy, which is at capacity and has a waiting list.
There are “over 300 students currently enrolled,” and the academy is no longer receiving applications,” district spokeswoman Aarika Sandlin said. “We will continue to provide face-to-face instruction at our remaining 15 schools.”
She added that the district’s work with the ABC Collaborative at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill “supports students attending school in a masked, controlled environment as a safe option for families.”
“We continue to implement layers of protection to ensure the safety and well-being of every student and staff member, every day,” Sandlin said.
As of Wednesday morning, the Vance district was reporting that 62 students and three staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 and are in quarantine. Eleven of the students were at Clarke. Another nine, plus one of the staff members, were at Rollins.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported on Tuesday that is is tracking the Rollins outbreak, but its figures listed only six students as having tested positive for the coronavirus.
Students in quarantine receive assignments through online devices that are assigned to every student in every school, Sandlin said.
“If a student has internet accessibility issues while quarantined, families may contact the school to coordinate receiving a wifi device. We are committed to ensuring our students are academically successful should they need to quarantine.
Sandlin said Rollins “has a very clean process for” handling calls coming into the building, with “three points of contact for incoming phone calls.”
“At this time, we have not been notified of any issues with the phone system at E.M. Rollins,” she said.
The Vance district is following state guidelines, which does not recommend quarantine of students after exposures in school settings if masks were being worn appropriately and consistently by both the person with COVID-19 and other people potentially exposed.
“This applies to exposures in classrooms, other in-school settings and school transportation, but does not apply to exposures during extracurricular activities, including athletic activities,” Sandlin said.
Families with something to report should contact the school and ask to speak to the school nurse or principal. If the nurse, in consultation with Granville-Vance Public Health, decide that contact tracing is in order, the school will begin that process.
“Every school principal sends phone messages home each day there is a confirmed positive case in a school,” Sandlin said. “We encourage all families to ensure that the correct information is on file with the school to receive these important messages. If you have previously opted out of the Blackboard messages, contact your child’s school so you can have your number added back to the phone list.”
School nurses have orders to follow the state’s guidelines, which includes screening students, checking temperatures and asking questions. Based on the screening, the nurse determines if further medical attention is necessary or if the family needs to be contacted.
At this time, Vance County Schools is not administering COVID-19 tests, but it does have a partnership with Mako Medical Laboratories. Testing opportunities within each school will begin during this for students and staff. Sandin said the district also hosts a test site with Optium Serve at the district office’s lower parking lot at 1724 Graham Ave. The test site is open daily Monday through Friday.