As Grady County parents prepare to send their children back to school in less than two weeks, the school system is already dealing with educators testing positive for COVID-19. Three coaches, one high school administrator and one teacher have tested positive so far, and 32 school employees were under quarantine Tuesday for possible exposure, according to Dr. Kermit Gilliard, superintendent of Grady County Schools.
“The 32 quarantined employees are coaches from the football team, softball team, and high school teachers that were near an administrator,” says Dr. Gilliard. “Our coaches work at different schools so this is not just at Cairo High School.”
As of today, the quarantine ends for the football coaches who did not test positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Gilliard says currently, the daily average of new cases of COVID-19 for the last two weeks has been 9.57 per day, a number that he says has been on a downward trajectory, which is good news for the opening of school.
Gilliard says, “If our two-week rolling average continues to drop, we will open school as planned on Sept. 8.”
Although two high school administrators are among those under quarantine and another has tested positive for COVID-19, planning for a Sept. 8 start date continues, according to Chris Lokey, principal of Cairo High.
“Our technology keeps us connected in a way like never before. I am having meetings and planning via Zoom, phone, email, and Google Meets,” says Lokey.
Still, there are teachers and administrators working in person on all Grady County campuses participating in pre-planning and professional development activities now and through the beginning of school. So, schools are getting cleaned on a daily basis.
“Every afternoon our building is sprayed with TwinOxide,” according to Lokey. “We are being diligent about sanitizing and cleaning daily by wiping down surfaces, especially entrance and exit areas. Safety is our top priority. We will work together to keep each other and the students of Cairo High School safe as we prepare for our Sept. 8 starting date.”
The Syrupmaker Marching Band has been at work since July preparing for the upcoming football season. Although some of the 125 band members have to enter the music building briefly to retrieve instruments, the practices have been held outside on the school’s front lawn, and so far, none of the students has tested positive.
Still, there were at least two band members on quarantine for possible exposure as of Tuesday.
John Scanling, band director, says he has had incidents where a relative of a band member has been tested, and while they await test results, the band member has stayed home until the test results were known.
“In each case, if the family member was positive, the band student quarantined for 14 days from the day the family member first showed symptoms, as required by the health department,” states Scanling.
He says if a student does test positive and has attended band practice within 48 hours of showing symptoms, Scanling must “contact trace to determine who else is required to quarantine. If the student did not attend band practice within 48 hours of showing symptoms, no further action is needed involving other band members.”
When classes begin, students will maintain social distancing, and those with brass instruments will have bell covers to help further mitigate the spread of aerosols from students who might have the virus unknowingly. Scanling says research indicates musicians can perform in such an environment for about 30 minutes, and the room then requires 15 minutes of air recirculation before more playing should take place.
He says, “Student safety is always a priority. We will take all necessary precautions to make the band classroom a safe environment for everyone involved.”