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Craig County Schools closed for the week for contact tracing

Craig County Schools closed for the week for contact tracing

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Craig County Public Schools closed Tuesday for COVID-19 contact tracing, and will remain closed until next week due to a staff shortage, according to a school division announcement.

Craig County, where a school board majority last month balked at a state mandate on masking students and staff, is one of several divisions to announce coronavirus-related schedule changes this week.

Giles County Public Schools also shifted to virtual learning through Friday. Pulaski County Middle School switched to virtual instruction for Tuesday due to COVID-related staffing shortages. Bath County Public Schools announced Tuesday it would halt in-school instruction through Sept. 17.

In recent weeks individual schools and classrooms in Franklin County and Roanoke County also have had temporary shifts to virtual learning due to contact tracing following COVID cases.

In Craig County, three students and two staff tested positive for the coronavirus, causing approximately 50 students and 16 staff members to be quarantined, said an announcement Tuesday afternoon on the Craig County Public Schools Facebook page.

School is out for the rest of the week, but the division expects its three schools to resume classes Sept. 13.

“This decision was made in collaboration with the local health department,” the announcement said. “School staff will be communicating with parents/students regarding assignments.”

The school closures Tuesday are related to coronavirus exposures among staff and students that occurred over the weekend, said an email Tuesday morning from Superintendent Jeanette Warwick. Further updates will be provided as appropriate, she said.

The division closed its elementary, middle and high schools for sanitation and for other “common-sense” reasons, said board member Faye Powers.

“It’s just common sense that you would close school for the safety of the children when you have a case or two,” Powers said. “We’re trying to keep the children and our staff safe.”

The division posted on Facebook at 5:30 p.m. Monday that schools would be closed Tuesday but did not give a reason until Tuesday morning, leading parents in the comments wondering and speculating why.

As of Aug. 31, there were three students and one staff with active coronavirus cases in Craig County Schools, according to an email from the superintendent.

“The contact tracing process is very time consuming and is being handled by our school nurse,” Warwick said on Aug. 31.

Last month, the chairwoman of the Craig County School Board resigned after four other members of the board voted against what was then a state-recommended mask mandate for students. Days later Gov. Ralph Northam issued an emergency order requiring masking in K-12 schools statewide. The school board then widened loopholes to allow parents to seek exemptions from the masking requirement for their children

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