Today, Bladen County Schools announced a third school closure. On October 19, Bladen County Schools was made aware of an individual at Bladenboro Middle School tested positive for COVID-19 along with exposing a significant number of close contact individuals. Due to privacy requirements, the school cannot release the individual or details that may identify him or her or those that may have been exposed. The information has been provided to the Bladen County Health Department.
Due to the number of COVID-19 close contact exposure cases and an individual identified as COVID-19 positive in Bladenboro Middle School, the superintendent recommends that the school close for in-person learning starting Tuesday, October 20. Students and staff are not to report to school. According to Bladen County Schools officials, any time a school cannot operate with a full staff, it can significantly impact its ability to teach students safely and effectively.
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To ensure our students’ and staff’s health and safety, Bladenboro Middle School will be closed for a minimum of two weeks, and children and staff should stay home. Bladen County Schools officials said the exposure to the virus happened outside of the school. However, the COVID-19 has impacted the staff needed to operate the school efficiently.
During this time, students and teachers will transition to remote-only teaching and learning at Bladenboro Middle School until further notice. Teachers will be in touch with parents and/or students regarding class assignments. Bladenboro Middle School is the third school to close. Dublin Primary School and East Arcadia Elementary School also closed this week after COVID-19 related announcements.
Valerie Newton, with Bladen County Schools, stated, “We understand this comes at a time when a sense of normalcy was returning to our schools. Please know that we consider the health, safety, and well-being of all families as we make these types of decisions. However, we must do our part to protect school children and staff and to help reduce the continued spread of the virus.”
As we have done throughout this Pandemic, she added that they would remain in close contact with the Bladen County Health Department and provide updates as soon as possible.
Dr. Robert Taylor, Bladen County Schools Superintendant, explained in a press conference held today at the district office that staff at the schools have been limited due to the Pandemic. Other factors limiting staff at the school for reasons outside of the Pandemic have also lead to the decisions to close the schools.
Dr. Taylor expressed the importance to practice the proper safety guidelines. In addition, he encouraged staff and students to stay home if they feel sick.
The health department is now investigating the COVID-19 case(s) and is working with school staff to identify anyone who may have had close contact (i.e., within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) with this person. The impacted person/s who were determined to be in close contact with the infected individual have all been notified directly. Those that were in close contact will remain off-campus for up to 14 calendar days to ensure that there will not be any potential further spread. If the health department does not contact you directly, you have not been identified as a close contact.
According to Newton, the safety and well-being of Bladen County Schools’ students and staff is always top priority. She said, “We are taking extra steps to ensure the safety of all. Bladen County Schools are following CDC and DHHS guidelines as we continue to monitor the situation.”
She continued, “Furthermore, we need everyone to do their part at school and at home to maintain social distance from others outside of their household, wear face coverings, and wash /sanitize hands often. The goal of every action in this sequence of events is to protect our students and staff and get back to learning and school activities as soon as possible.”
Bladen County Schools is not allowing parent volunteers at this time but is in need of substitute teachers. Anyone interested in becoming a substitute teacher may take the Effective Teacher’s Training provided by Bladen Community College. After obtaining the training, interested parties may apply to be a substitute with Bladen County Schools.