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Carroll County Public Schools closes 3 more special education programs because of COVID-19

Carroll County Public Schools closed three more special education programs after two staff members showed coronavirus symptoms and another tested positive.

The Learning for Independence (LFI) programs at Winfield Elementary School, Liberty High School and Mount Airy Middle School are temporarily closed, according to Carey Gaddis, CCPS communications officer.

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“Late last week we made the decision to temporary close the following LFI programs,” she said in an email Monday before listing the affected schools. “Staff and parents of those programs have already been notified.”

LFI is a special education program offering a certificate of completion for its students, many of whom have complex medical needs that may not be able to be met in their home schools, according to the CCPS website.

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Mount Airy Middle had one staff member who tested positive. Winfield and Liberty each had a symptomatic staff member.

Last week, CCPS announced its first outbreak, or the first time someone who had tested positive for COVID-19 transmitted it to another person within the school.

A staff member from Robert Moton’s LFI program reported having symptoms and one of the close contacts tested positive for the virus. The program was temporarily closed.

“Based on our experience from Robert Moton and due to the fact that students and staff in these programs are often in close proximity, we believe this is the correct course of action to minimize spread and the potential for any outbreak,” Gaddis said via email. “As was the case with Robert Moton’s LFI, the closures at these schools is not impacting the regular education programs currently happening in those schools.”

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Superintendent Steve Lockard said he cannot give an exact date for when programs will reopen, but noted it’s “not going to be too much longer” until Robert Moton’s LFI program will reopen.

County Health Officer Ed Singer told the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday 10 people within the school system tested positive for the virus. At the time, none had contracted the virus from sources inside the school system. The following day, the county health department announced the first outbreak.

“With all of the mitigation measures in place, we hope to limit the number of people impacted by spread within the schools,” he said in Friday’s release. “We will continue [to] follow these cases and others in the system to identify any linked cases and areas of concern.”

The school system and health department are creating a data dashboard to show how many have the coronavirus within the schools and how many are required to isolate based on COVID-like symptoms in each school. It’s scheduled to be available by the end of the week.

Carroll students returned to elementary and middle schools for hybrid learning Oct. 19. High School students are scheduled to return this Thursday.

The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for Wednesday evening.

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