No grade levels closed down after student cluster at Corriher-Lipe

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 18, 2021

LANDIS — No grade levels have been shut down after a cluster of COVID-19 cases was identified at Corriher-Lipe Middle School.

The cluster, composed of seven infections in students and no staff, was recorded by the state on Tuesday and is the first in Rowan-Salisbury Schools. Clusters are defined as five or more cases which have been linked together.

RSS Assistant Superintendent of Transformation Andrew Smith said the district makes decisions based on guidance from Rowan County Health Department, which designated the cluster after performing contract tracing on the cases reported at the school.

Smith said the district can not disclose quarantine figures school-by-school because it could disclose medical information within the purview of the Health Department, but anyone who was exposed was notified. The district sent letters notifying families at Corriher-Lipe of new positives and the cluster designation.

“It’s fortunate this was isolated and we quickly got in contact with anybody who may be exposed,” Smith said.

Smith said the district’s first concern was the safety of the people and the school and to make sure the schools continue to follow safety protocols so the cluster stays an isolated event.

“We watched other districts who have had clusters before so we were prepared,” Smith said.

The district is one of a few in the state which has managed to keep schools open the entire year and remained cluster-free until now. Though toward the end of last semester it was “at the brink” of having to make changes at schools because of staffing shortages due to quarantine.

Nearby Kannapolis City schools sent students back to classrooms for the first time since December on Tuesday.

Quarantines among RSS staff peaked in early January coming off of winter break and the district made the call on reopening schools two days ahead the return, surveying staff to ensure it would be possible to do so.

As of Monday, the district reported 21 positive cases in students and 12 in employees, and 538 students were quarantined and so were 41 employees.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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