Both Lincoln County school systems seeing rising cases

Lincoln County Schools COVID-19 update

FAYETTEVILLE, Ten. (WAFF) - As we see surging COVID-19 cases in Alabama, our neighbors to the North are getting it even worse. Tennessee has reported more than 50,000 cases in the last two weeks.

Over in Lincoln County, they are also seeing a surge. In the last month, Lincoln County’s 7-day rolling average for COVID-19 cases has more than doubled, going from an average of 11 on Oct. 17 to just more than 23 on Nov. 17.

In the Lincoln County Schools and Fayetteville City Schools, both superintendents agree they’ve seen increasing cases after Fall Break.

Lincoln County Director of Schools Dr. Bill Heath said through the first half of the semester things were going well. Now, they’re seeing cases rise after the break.

“A lot of cases started occurring after fall break, we’ve probably had as close to as many positive cases of students and/or faculty members since Fall Break, which has only been four weeks, then we had the entire first nine weeks," Heath said. "So, there is a spike that’s occurring and we are managing that right now.”

LCS reported eight new students who were positive and two new teachers who were positive last week.

Heath said they’ve never had to send a whole school to virtual learning because of COVID-19, but they are prepared for the possibility. Especially with more breaks, holidays and flu season on the way.

“All of that is sort of a perfect storm here at this time of year and then when you add to it, we’re on break and people get together. It’s a situation that I’m not sure what it looks like the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas or the month after Christmas break," Heath said.

Bill Hopkins, the Director of Schools for Fayetteville City Schools, shares his concerns. Right now in Fayetteville City Schools, there are 6 positive cases resulting in 26 quarantines.

Fayetteville City Schools COVID-19 update

Hopkins has implemented some recent changes, starting on Nov. 11 every Wednesday of each week is now a virtual learning day for the whole system. On top of that, Hopkins is asking any students who can, to switch from traditional to virtual learning.

He said now they actually have more students in virtual learning than they did at the beginning of the year, which gives teachers and students who need to be in traditional learning more room to social distance.

Hopkins said because of past experiences, he’s worried about what could happen after Thanksgiving Break.

“Based on our experience in Fall Break, we’re expecting it could get worse,” Hopkins said. “We don’t know what that’s going to be like when we come back from Thanksgiving, if families get together, things could be transmitted during that time. We just basically go week-to-week, we hope to make it to Christmas Break, but again, we are not optimistic because it seems like the more that we are off the worse things get.”

Hopkins said along with increasing cases in schools, he is in quarantine after being exposed to someone who was asymptomatic and they have a teacher fighting COVID-19 in the hospital.

“We do have a teacher right now that is presently in ICU with symptoms, so we really want to make sure we’re doing everything we can do to protect everyone," he said. "We’re constantly evaluating and making sure we’re doing what’s best for our employees and our students.”

Hopkins said, like Heath and LCS, FCS is ready to more to remote learning very quickly if there is a sudden outbreak in quarantines in a school or across the system.

“We are prepared, we talk about this weekly and we are prepared at any moment, we know our teachers have trained, they’ve heard us talk about this as a possibility that at a moment’s notice, if we must, we will go full remote," said Hopkins.

Heading into Thanksgiving Break, both Hopkins and Heath are hoping students and their families follow CDC guidelines and keep any possible exposure to the virus as low as possible.

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