52 people at Prince George High School in quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19

Updated: Feb. 10, 2021 at 11:24 PM EST
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PRINCE GEORGE Co., Va. (WWBT) - The superintendent says that as of Feb. 8, 52 people at Prince George High School are in quarantine due to close contact with a positive COVID-19 case. As of this week, there have been 34 positive cases at the high school since school resumed after Christmas break on Jan. 4.

Prince George County Public Schools said it follows CDC guidelines when it comes to contact tracing. The CDC defines close contact as “someone who has been within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period.”

Those who have been identified as having close contact will be advised to quarantine and will be able to return when that time period is over.

A statement from the superintendent also said frequent sanitizations, mask-wearing and social distancing are among the measures being taken to prevent spread.

PGCPS said the Virginia Department of Health and Crater Health District has notified the division of outbreaks at the high school.

“An outbreak is defined by VDH as having at least two or more COVID-19 cases identified from an exposure within a particular setting. For a school, that can include a classroom or other common indoor space, such as a cafeteria seating area or enclosed sporting venue,” Superintendent Lisa Pennycuff said.

The school division also said that the process of vaccinating teachers and staff is underway.

PGCPS said there have also been concerns about class scheduling at the high school.

Since the beginning, the division says it has made it a priority to provide a choice to students and families on how they want to learn. The choice was also extended to teachers to decide if they wanted to teach in-person or virtually.

“Once the number of virtual and in-person classes needed to meet the children’s needs were determined, teachers were asked for their preference, and when possible, it was accommodated,” the superintendent said.

In preparations for the second semester, principals at each school were supposed to evaluate the need of the students’ instructional option chosen and adjust the number of virtual and in-person teachers to meet the need of how the students chose to learn.

The superintendent said that in-person students were to always have an in-person teacher. Principals were then to inform teachers of the students’ needs and make adjustments for the upcoming semester.

“At the beginning of the second semester, I began to receive reports from parents and teachers at Prince George High School that in-person students were struggling with their virtual classes and that teachers were also experiencing difficulty balancing their own responsibilities with losing their planning time to be physically present in the in-person classrooms taught by virtual teachers,” Pennycuff said.

Pennycuff said she then learned that Prince George High School created a schedule that had 76 class periods with in-person students being taught by virtual teachers weekly.

“Further, approximately 50 teachers who are teaching their own in-person class periods are being asked to use their planning time to be physically present in the classrooms as teachers have been permitted to teach virtually from an offsite location. This has created a situation that required correction as it was not fair and equitable to the children who attend in-person to receive instruction from a virtual teacher. Nor is this fair or equitable to the teachers who are asked to teach their classes in-person and then give up their own planning time to be physically present in the room with students while the virtual teacher provides virtual instruction to in-person students,” Pennycuff said.

Pennycuff said that upon finding all of this out, it required corrective action to provide in-person students with in-person teachers, and also allowing teachers to have planning periods to prepare for their classes.

The division said Family Medical Leave remains available to those who have significant health conditions.

The division is also aware of an online petition created by Prince George High School students asking virtual teachers to return for in-person learning.

“We appreciate our students’ support of their teachers and staff. While we were aware of these scheduling concerns prior to the student-made petition, all of the information had not been made available to our students. We support our students’ efforts to engage in their community and voice their concerns. It is our hope they will have a greater perspective now that we have shared this information relating to the scheduling difficulty,” Pennycuff said.

The superintendent also said that the primary hot water tank at the school has been down and is being replaced. There is a backup hot water tank that is serving the needs of the kitchen and other areas, but it does not have the capacity to serve the entire school continuously while the main one is being replaced.

The division said it remains in compliance with Virginia Department of Health requirements while it is being replaced.

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