Students at Carroll County Public Schools’ Northwest Middle School in Taneytown will learn virtually for two days due to the number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 and their close contacts.
Northwest Middle School parents received a letter Monday afternoon saying the school will be closed for all in-person learning on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It is our plan for students who have not tested positive or have not been quarantined to return to in-person learning on Thursday, Sept. 23,” the letter stated.
Brenda Bowers, spokesperson for the school system, said the school had 18 positive cases. She added they are not able to determine how many close contacts the middle school had. More than 600 students are enrolled in the school.
Ed Singer, county health officer, said in an interview the health department normally sees 15 to 20 close contacts with every positive case. And there are seven people working to identify all who are involved at Northwest Middle.
The system reported Friday there were 803 close contacts in quarantine and there were 136 students and staff who tested positive for the virus as of last Wednesday. Carroll was the only district in the region to start school without masks until a General Assembly committee implemented a universal mask mandate for the public schools a week later.
“According to the Health Department, closing the school temporarily will ensure that we are doing all we can to reduce the spread in the school and the community,” the letter to parents stated.
Singer said deciding to close the school was a huge decision and understands it’s an inconvenience for families, but necessary to slow the spread.
“We really need to get this under control,” he said. “This is the first one we’ve seen where we felt like we didn’t have a good handle on it.”
He said last school year, outbreaks consisted of a couple people. But at Northwest Middle they were seeing the virus spread in all grade levels instead of a single classroom, Singer said. The outbreaks are leading to other outbreaks, he added.
Singer said he can’t say whether or not this will happen elsewhere, but the county hopes to stay on top of this situation.
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“We could wind up with this going on for weeks and months if we don’t get this under control,” he said.
The parent letter stated the county’s health department will provide an on-site mobile unit at the school on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to test students from the school as well as its feeder schools: Elmer Wolfe, Runnymede and Taneytown elementaries and Francis Scott Key High School.
Parents should call 410-876-4645 on Tuesday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to make an appointment. The county currently has only one testing site, which is located at Westminster High School.
The county health department sent a news release also detailing the temporary closure.
“We believe this action will limit further transmission among students and staff and expedite returning the maximum number of students to in-person learning as quickly as possible,” Ed Singer, county health officer, said in the release. “We want to reduce the impact of this outbreak on the school system and the community.”
The release from the health department states parents are asked to make sure their children are following all guidance at school including wearing a mask and social distancing.
Students at Northwest Middle will attend class virtually beginning with period 1 at 8:25 a.m. Tuesday via Google Classroom. And the seventh and eighth grade Back to School Night scheduled for Wednesday will be held virtually via Microsoft Teams.