By Tia Lynn Ivey
School has not even resumed yet, but Morgan County students are already testing positive for COVID-19. Morgan County High School’s football practice has been cancelled after three players tested positive for COVID-19, the highly-contagious and potentially lethal coronavirus. According to school officials, six other players may have been exposed, and their parents have been notified.
“Last week, the Morgan County Football team had three confirmed positive cases of COVID-19,” said Assistant Superintendent Jay Homan. “Additionally, we identified six other players who may have had close contact/exposure through football activities. As we do regularly, we communicated with the Georgia Department of Public Health and have followed all guidance related to contract tracing and exposure.”
Football practice is canceled through at least next week as school officials monitor the situation.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we elected to suspend practice for one week. The one-week suspension of football activities allows our staff additional time to monitor the situation in an effort to decrease exposure to other student-athletes and staff involved with our football program,” said Homan. “Furthermore, this decision allows our coaches time to focus on the start of a new school year. We intend to resume with football workouts on Monday, August 3.”
Homan assured that the school system is working overtime to create a safe environment for students and teachers to return to when school begins on Aug. 6.
“Ultimately, we hold the health and safety of our students, staff, and community members as the highest priority. We will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as we make plans for the coming school year,” said Homan.
While other school systems throughout the region have opted to delay reopening school until September, or to move to online learning only, Morgan County will open school on Thursday, Aug. 6.
Morgan County has offered online-learning only options, in addition to in-person classes. According to school officials, the vast majority of students have opted for to physically return to school, with more than 2,600 students registered in-person classes. About 14 percent Morgan County students, about 550, have opted for online learning-only.
In an interview last week, Superintendent of School Dr. Virgil Cole and Assistant Superintendent Jay Homan expressed their confidence in the school system’s plan to reopen.
“While I do not know of anyone who has all of the answers, we believe our plan or framework is safe, thoughtful, and appropriate for our system, staff and students,” said Dr. Cole. “I take this responsibility very seriously, not only as the superintendent, but as a father of a current student.”
“As we prepare for reopening schools, we will continue to evaluate how to best meet the learning needs of all our students. Ultimately, we hold the health and safety of our students, staff, and community members as the highest priority,” said Assistant Superintendent Jay Homan. “We will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as we make plans for the coming school year. In addition to the in-person school environment, we are providing a virtual learning opportunity for students. Our detailed framework is posted on our website which outlines our specific protocols for in-person instruction and the Morgan Virtual option.”
The school system has devised several new safety strategies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus once school reopens next week.
School officials are strongly encouraging, but not requiring, students and teachers to wear masks while in school and while riding the school bus. To limit contact between students, breakfast and lunch will be served inside individual classrooms, outside or with a limited number of students in the cafeteria. All schools facilities are adopting “enhanced cleaning” routines to disinfect high-traffic areas. Hand sanitizer stations will be installed throughout hallways and classrooms throughout each school. While water fountains will be cleaned and sanitized regularly, students and teachers are encouraged to bring their own water bottles to reduce contact. Assemblies will be split up for smaller groups of students and field trips will be limited. All non-essential visitors, volunteers and activities will also be limited.
Sick students, teachers and staff are required to stay home. Rooms inside each school will be designated to isolate students or teachers exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus.
According to Dr. Cole, school protocols could change as the pandemic changes.
“We are taking it day by day as we do our best to keep everyone safe,” said Cole.