Paw Paw students go remote after COVID case

by KATE EVANS & KATE SHUNNEY

Paw Paw High School was operating by full remote learning on Tuesday, October 13  with elementary students back in classrooms after the school system and Morgan-Berkeley County Health Department confirmed a case of COVID-19 in a Paw Paw student. All Paw Paw students spent Monday doing remote learning.

Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristen Tuttle announced the case and change in school operations in a letter that was posted on the county schools Facebook page on Sunday. Press Release–positive case 10.11.20

In-person instruction has been halted at Paw Paw High School while contact tracing occurs.  The Health Department is working with Morgan County Schools and doing contact tracing to identify anyone with which the student may have had close contact, Tuttle said.

Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said in the letter that “the Health Department will contact those that need to be quarantined.  If there is a chance that you may have been exposed and the health department can trace that activity to you, you will be notified.  Please understand contact tracing and testing takes time and there are levels of contact: low, medium and high.”

“Our students and staff have done a great job wearing masks and social distancing at school in order to help prevent exposure. We will continue to take appropriate action working with and under the guidance of health officials to protect the safety and well-being of our students and staff,” Tuttle told parents. “To keep our schools open to our children, it will take our entire community following established COVID-19 protocols including hand washing, facial covering use, social distancing, and proper hygiene.”

Two other school-associated cases of COVID-19 have been reported by school officials.  Morgan County Schools reported on September 14 that a case of COVID-19 was identified in a Berkeley Springs High School student.

On September 3 the school system announced that someone associated with the Berkeley Springs High School volleyball team had tested positive for COVID-19.  Team members and coaches were quarantined for 14 days and volleyball-associated events were suspended until September 16.

State school map

Morgan County was considered yellow in the Saturday, October 10 color-coded West Virginia School Alert System Map, indicating that the county had 3.1-9.9 cases of the COVID-19 virus per 100,000 or a 3%-3.9% positivity rate.

All other Morgan County Schools besides Paw Paw Schools are operating with students learning in-person this week.  Decisions about school operations for each week are based on a county’s COVID-19 status color on Saturday of the preceding week. The map is updated on the state Department of Education website every Saturday at 5 p.m.

Health Department Administrator Bill Kearns couldn’t say how soon Paw Paw Schools could resume in-person learning.

He said that COVID-19 contact tracing can take days or weeks, depending on how quickly all the known close contacts of a case can be identified and how soon they can get those affected into quarantine.  Once contacts are identified they have to be quarantined and tested.

Kearns said a couple of schools in Berkeley County had to close for remote learning for a couple of weeks because of COVID-19 cases.  One of the schools Gerrardstown Elementary is reopening this week for in-person instruction.

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