You should know if COVID is in our schools

Published 7:04 am Wednesday, August 19, 2020

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We don’t always tear down the fourth wall, but today we think it’s worth lowering just a bit.

Late yesterday afternoon, we broke a story from Chambers County School District regarding a student receiving a positive COVID-19 test.

This information was not released to strike fear in the community or “fan the flames” as one Facebook commenter suggested. It was reported as a public service.

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In an effort to explain our thinking and the process to report that information, we rewind to Sunday evening. That night we emailed CCSD Superintendent Kelli Hodge asking how the district would go about reporting any positive cases in the system and whether there had been any since the start of school. 

Why the email? At that time, many news stories from the state of Alabama and Georgia flooded news feeds, and we wondered how CCSD was going to inform the parents and the community as a whole when a positive case emerged.

Early Monday morning, Hodge responded to that email with their protocol for contact tracing, parent notification and cleaning procedures. She also stated at that time there had been no positives reported.

Later in the afternoon, Hodge again emailed — unsolicited — to update her statement to say the school system learned of and was investigating a possible positive test within the student population.

We immediately responded, asking if she’d let us know when she had more information. We specifically noted that we didn’t want to cause a panic, so we wanted to make sure there was actually a case before we reported anything.

Approximately 45 minutes later, Hodge wrote back, saying that CCSD was able to confirm the positive test and listed the steps they had taken in response to that confirmation.

Again, none of this communication had to take place, and we commend the school system for their transparency.

For those that believe this reporting is “fear-mongering,” what would you say if the results were swept under the rug and the dispersing of the information left up to only affected parents, students or educators?

Transparency is always the best policy, and then the public can react to the news as they wish. We certainly don’t think it’s super surprising that a student at a local school has already contracted COVID-19.

This is something we’re all going to be dealing with this fall, and perhaps the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year.

However, it’s our job to report the news in this community, and a student case is newsworthy. Parents and the community at large deserve to know, so we reported it, and will continue to do so as new cases pop up.

But, again, we also applaud Hodge and her handling of the situation.

Since COVID-19 crossed into Chambers County, 855 have contracted the virus and 38 of our family, friends and neighbors have lost their lives.

Our schools have reopened their doors — as they should have — and our children are our most precious commodity and need to be kept safe and healthy. 

You deserve to know that your leaders are on top of the situation and handling this virus appropriately. In this situation, it was seemingly handled perfectly, and we trust that will continue.

We will continue to report positive cases in our schools as we receive that information.

We hope this is the only case, however, it likely will not be.

We urge school systems to continue to be transparent as cases pop up, and we thank CCSD for its transparency on Monday.