Parents, school leaders at odds over coronavirus cases in Clinton City schools

Posted October 15, 2020 6:25 p.m. EDT
Updated October 15, 2020 10:37 p.m. EDT

— One of the smallest school districts in central North Carolina could teach other districts a big lesson in handling coronavirus in the classroom.

Of the five schools in Clinton City Public Schools in Sampson County, two are dealing with positive cases right now.

Students in Clinton City schools have been back on campus since the middle of August without any major coronavirus-related clusters or outbreaks. But there have been some positive cases that have parents concerned.

Like most school systems that decided to bring students back on campus, CCPS has put in place protective procedures they hoped would stop the spread of COVID-19.

Superintendent Wesley Johnson said since school started there haven't been any coronavirus-related clusters among the 408 employees and more than 3,000 students. The state Department of Health and Human Services defines a cluster as five or more cases in close proximity or location.

But in a statement on Thursday, he said, "we can confirm that since the beginning of school, three employees and four students have tested positive for COVID-19. Two of those cases are currently active."

CCPS parents said one positive test was at Butler Avenue Elementary School. It's forced eight staff members, including the principal, to quarantine for 14 days. The other involved a bus driver, who also works in the cafeteria of Sampson Middle School.

The parent of a teacher, who asked not to be identified, said the entire cafeteria staff was in quarantine and several students who rode the bus are being monitored for symptoms.

"They're coming in contact with the people that are being tested for COVID or have come down with COVID and they're not telling anyone," the parent said. "They're keeping it hush-hush."

The parent said the school system is covering up the number of cases at the system's five campuses.

"To keep up the image that we have no cases in Clinton, we're running it so good and we're doing the check so well that no one is coming down with COVID when that is simply not true," they added.

Johnson said there's no coverup. He said school leaders "have worked closely and communicated consistently with local health department officials to deploy proactive measures such as contact tracing and 14-day self-quarantine."

An exclusive WRAL News Poll released on Thursday showed that 43% of those surveyed believed North Carolina public schools have reopened too quickly. Twenty percent said they've reopened too slowly, while 24% said schools have opened at the right pace.

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