RSS closes three elementary schools Thursday, one to remain remote after staffing shortages

Published 2:55 pm Thursday, January 13, 2022

SALISBURY – Parents at Hurley, Isenberg and Knollwood Elementary schools received a message on Wednesday their students would not be returning to school the next day.

The three schools were moved to remote learning because of absences related to COVID-19. Isenberg and Knollwood are expected to return to in-person learning on Friday, but Hurley Elementary will remain remote.

Wednesday’s message told parents the move was made out of an abundance of caution and because absences at the schools reduced the ability to operate the schools safely.

RSS Communications Officer Tracey Lewis said no COVID-19 clusters have been identified in the three schools and declined to give the number of absences at each school because the district’s numbers are changing “minute-to-minute.”

Lewis said district’s pandemic response team is meeting daily while the state sees an increase in COVID-19 cases due to the highly infectious omicron variant.

“We will evaluate schools that have significant COVID-related absences and will make decisions based on the individual school’s needs and situation,” Lewis said, adding the district will try to make those decisions a day in advance to give families notice.

Lewis said there may be extreme cases where it is necessary to move a school remote on short notice — before buses begin running that morning.

Students will not receive school-provided meals while they are home.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ weekly COVID-19 case report shows a total of 23 student cases and 43 employee cases across the district. An additional 628 students and 119 employees are quarantined or isolating after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID — 3.44% and 4.65% of students and employees, respectively.

Pandemic experts are predicting a peak and decline in cases by mid-January, possibly beginning next week, but right now the state is seeing record breaking case numbers, almost a third of tests returning positive results and spiking hospitalizations.

Lewis said the district is still performing contact tracing for cases identified in the schools. This week the state told local health departments to discontinue contact tracing because of the sheer number of new cases.

On Thursday, the Rowan County Health Department reported a 14-day total of 3,309 new cases, accounting for a more than 10% increase in the county’s total case count since the pandemic began almost two years ago, along with a 31.8% positivity rate for COVID-19 tests.