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Glenelg Country School moves to virtual learning, cancels athletic events after 3 students test positive for coronavirus

Three Glenelg Country School students tested positive for the coronavirus last week, which led the Ellicott City-based private school to close its school buildings, move to virtual learning and cancel all in-person activities, including athletics, this week, according to Glenelg Country spokesperson Danielle Peterson.

Peterson wrote in an email statement that the decisions were made on Oct. 30 “out of an abundance of caution." The cases, she wrote, are the first positive coronavirus cases the school has experienced since the beginning of the academic year.

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According to an email sent to parents from Glenelg Country Upper School Head Brandon Neblett on Tuesday, an upper school student tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 28 after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Two of the student’s close contacts, determined by the school’s nurses, later tested positive on Oct. 30, Neblett wrote. Then, in coordination with the Howard County Health Department, Glenelg Country decided later that day to close the school building and cancel in-person events through at least Nov. 8.

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The two students who tested positive on Oct. 30 are members of an athletics team at Glenelg Country. The team has not practiced or competed since Oct. 27 — one day before the first student tested positive. The entire team, Neblett wrote in his email, is now quarantining. All close contacts, as well as the three students who tested positive, were told to quarantine for 14 days.

None of the three students who tested positive, according to Neblett’s email, were inside the school building on Oct. 27 or Oct. 29 — the only two days for in-person learning for upper school students last week.

While the three students who tested positive were not in the school building last week, other close contacts had been. Neblett wrote that one close contact, who later tested negative, was in school one day last week, while “some members” of the affected athletics team were also in the building.

“We continue to take a conservative position to protect the community, and we will be proactive where we can to address health concerns," Neblett wrote in his email Tuesday. "Our commitment to providing a campus that is safe and healthy for students, faculty and staff remains our first priority.”

Peterson originally provided a statement to the Howard County Times on Wednesday afternoon that confirmed the school had moved to virtual learning and that in-person events were canceled this week.

The Howard County Times then obtained copies of the emails Neblett sent to parents that answered those questions about how many students tested positive and when the positive tests occurred. Peterson confirmed the information in an email Thursday morning. She also wrote that Glenelg Country’s plan is to return to their hybrid schedule next week.

“Our school nurses have accomplished the Herculean effort of contact tracing throughout our school,” Peterson wrote. "The decision to pause our hybrid learning plan was made out of an abundance of caution to allow those efforts to be realized and ensure a safe and healthy environment for our students, faculty and staff.”

Neblett also wrote Tuesday that the three positive tests were in addition to “close contact concerns at the lower school at the end of last week.” Peterson did not comment on what those concerns at the lower school were.

After learning virtually since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Glenelg Country students returned to campus in mid-October for a hybrid learning model and some in-person activities like athletics for upper school students. Varsity athletic competitions were scheduled to start Oct. 30 with the varsity boys soccer team hosting Mount Carmel, but that contest and subsequent games have been postponed.

Glenelg Country Director of Athletics Paul Weir declined to comment Wednesday and referred to Peterson’s statement.

Glenelg Country had been pushing toward a return of athletics this fall per the announcement by the MIAA and IAAM on Oct. 12 that its member schools would be permitted to move forward with an open schedule.

The school offers seven fall sports programs at the high school level, including boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, field hockey, volleyball and girls tennis. Weir said in October the plan was to have competition for each of those sports running until the week before Thanksgiving. Through Wednesday, however, no games have been played.

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