Brantley County school closes after staff test positive for COVID-19

BRANTLEY COUNTY, Ga. – An elementary school in Brantley County has closed after staff members tested positive for COVID-19 or had to self-isolate due to possible exposure to the virus.

According to a post on the district’s website, Hoboken Elementary School, located near Waycross, Ga., closed Friday and will remain closed until Aug. 24. For now, students will learn virtually while the building and buses are cleaned.

“While there are no students at Hoboken Elementary School who have reported testing positive for COVID-19, we have had adults who had to quarantine due to positive test results or exposure,” the district wrote in a statement to parents. “We will use this time for mitigation measures to slow/decrease the spread of the virus.”

Brantley County Superintendent Kim Morgan said someone tested positive during the pre-planning period before schools reopened Aug. 6. She said when the district closed schools this week, officials were not aware of any students who had tested positive.

The district would not say how many people tested positive, or if they were teachers, but it acknowledged that the staff members work around children.

As part of the district’s reopening plan, classes, grade levels, or, in this case, an entire school can be sent home if needed. The plan calls for brief school closures if the system saw isolated clusters of COVID-19 in certain classes or schools. If any student makes contact with someone who tests positive at the school, parents will be notified.

“While we understand the spread of COVID-19 will happen in both the community and schools, our school system will be diligent in our efforts to be extra cautious and make sure we do everything possible to decrease the spread,” the district wrote. “For this reason, Hoboken Elementary School will follow safety plans, closing the school briefly and move students to distance learning during that time.”

School lunches will be available for students during virtual learning and they will be available if the school closes again.

Mandi Jones, whose daughter goes to Hoboken Elementary, said the district is doing the best it can. But she hasn’t ruled out the possibility that something like this could happen again.

“Well, it’s to be expected,” Jones told News4Jax. “I mean honestly, how do we think we’re going to get through the school year without having a positive case? Them closing had to be very hard for them with them only being open for one week. We all knew that going in, and we’re going to get through this hurdle.”

Jones said she doesn’t fear her children getting the virus at school, saying she’s confident in whatever the school does. In this case, that includes the district using fogging disinfectant machines to clean the school.

“This is never going away,” she said. “We have to find a way to deal with it.”

Masks are encouraged but not required in Brantley County schools, according to the district’s reopening plan.

According to the latest numbers from the Georgia health department, 17% of the 272 coronavirus cases reported in the county with a population of just over 19,000 have come in the last two weeks.

A total of eight people have died due to COVID-19 complications and 20 people have been hospitalized since the beginning of the pandemic.

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