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First COVID-19 outbreak in Carroll County Public Schools occurs at Robert Moton

The first COVID-19 outbreak at a public school in Carroll County occurred within the Learning for Independence Program at Robert Moton Elementary School in Westminster.

The LFI special education program was closed Oct. 26 after a staff reported having symptoms. Multiple students and staff members were identified as close contacts and one of the contacts tested positive Nov. 5, according to a joint news release from Carroll County Public Schools and the Carroll County Health Department.

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“All identified close contacts of the two cases are in quarantine and several have been tested,” the release states. “Because this outbreak is currently limited to the LFI program, the rest of the school can remain open.”

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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County Health Officer Ed Singer said in the news release that staff members at Robert Moton have been cooperative and following the guidance as much as possible. However, LFI students could find it difficult to wear face coverings and instructors are often closer than 6 feet to help and teach.

“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 the release. “We will continue [to] follow these cases and others in the system to identify any linked cases and areas of concern.”

Despite the outbreak, the health officer told the Times on Friday afternoon, “I actually think we’re doing pretty darn good.”

He said it’s a good thing when an outbreak only results in a couple of positive cases, which is manageable. However, he said he would not be surprised if one or two more positive cases arise from this group. He said this case has more close contacts than would be found in a typical classroom.

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Superintendent Steve Lockard said in the news release that CCPS has been following protocols and working closely with the health department.

“We continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on our schools and take steps to mitigate the spread within our school community,” he said in the release.

At the time, a day before the health department announced the school’s first outbreak, Singer said there had yet to be an in-school transmission, which would be considered an outbreak. However, he said it is bound to happen.

In addition to the 10 cases, more than 70 are considered persons under investigation and 142 others have been quarantined. Singer said at the commissioners meeting on Thursday the special education population contributed to the high numbers.

The school system initially did not report its COVID-19 data, but Singer said on Thursday that a data dashboard to report case numbers is expected to be online next week.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise within Carroll County. On Friday, 27 new cases were announced, meaning Carroll has seen 103 community cases this week, the second-highest total of the pandemic.

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