COVID cases force private school to go virtual

St. Pius X Catholic High School—a private school in DeKalb County—announced its students would be learning only virtually the week of Nov. 9-13 to combat a COVID-19 uptick that officials said is linked to a Halloween gathering.

Archdiocese of Atlanta Communication Director Maureen Smith said officials from St. Pius X Catholic School were informed Nov. 2 of a positive case involving a St. Pius student. Smith said the student involved indicated they had attended an off campus gathering not related to the school.

Sophomores switched to virtual learning Nov. 3, while the remaining students of the school went virtual Nov. 9, according to Smith.

St. Pius X Catholic officials used contact tracing to identify others who may have had close contact with the student who attended the gathering. Smith said all of the possibly exposed students were sent home for virtual learning. 

“As more cases were reported, the school decided the safest route to take was to send all students into virtual learning so no cases would spread within the school setting,” said Smith. “Since the quarantine began, more than 40 students have reported positive cases.”

St. Pius X Catholic officials and DeKalb County Board of Health’s contact tracers have continued efforts to identify anyone else who may have had close contact with a positive case, Smith said. Those students will get a phone call to tell them how long they need to stay in virtual learning. 

Smith said Archdiocese of Atlanta schools—such as St. Pius X Catholic High School—have an aggressive response and quarantine policy. 

“We tend to send home anyone who may have been in contact with a case and then conduct contact tracing to decide which students are safe to return to school. This sometimes translates into larger quarantines, but we feel like this is the best way to protect the community at large,” said Smith. “We have a COVID task force that works with each school community to keep guidelines up to date and to help with contact tracing and policy review.”

According to Smith, Archdiocese of Atlanta schools give students daily temperature checks, require masks to be worn all day, spread out lunches and open windows or add HEPA air filters to classrooms and hallways.

“This has kept the student positive case rate to about 1.2% since the beginning of the school year,” said Smith.

Smith said St. Pius X Catholic High School hopes to bring some students back Nov. 16 but contact tracers will call individuals who need to quarantine longer.

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