The Cobb County School District has confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19 at Kincaid Elementary School in the county’s northeast.
The school, with almost 700 students, will be closed for 14 calendar days from Thursday, with teachers instructed to prepare digital learning material for students forced to stay home.
“Student and staff safety will always be our top priority,” said Superintendent Chris Ragsdale. “This priority is what was behind the decision to close Kincaid Elementary for the next 14 calendar days. We continue to be in close and constant communication with DPH and our local Board of Health and appreciate their guidance and support. It is in times such as these that our One Team truly comes together to support one another and our community.”
Kincaid’s principal and the Cobb school district were told of their first “positive” case of the new coronavirus Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Public Health, John Floresta, the district’s chief strategy and accountability officer told the MDJ.
Per instructions from the state health department, the school district is not identifying the person who tested positive, nor whether they are a student or staff member.
“As staff members and as parents, we’re all equally anxious,” Floresta said. “We’re relying on those people who are doctors, since we aren’t, and what they are saying. They’re pointing us back to facts. We also know our parents and students and staff have a lot of reason for fear and that’s something that we are very sensitive to, and the very best thing we know to do is steer back to those people who are doctors, and to provide the advice from them. We’re trying not to play doctor.”
Floresta said the district is trying to separate fear from fact and there’s no reason to think the individual who tested positive has had widespread exposure to others while sick.
Floresta said the person who tested positive was last at the school on Friday, and sought medical advice after feeling ill over the weekend.
The incubation period for the new coronavirus is 14 days, hence the period of time Kincaid will stay closed. If all goes to plan, the school will reopen on Thursday, March 26.
The elementary school will be cleaned, sanitized and fumigated while closed over the next two weeks, Floresta said, after which the district anticipates being able to open it again for all healthy students and staff.
“In this specific case the department of public health has been giving us direction on the best way for our nursing staff and admin staff to keep our kids and staff safe,” he said. “What we’ve gotten from them consistently has been very high-level guidance, which continues to point us back to prioritizing the health and safety of our students and staff, so this closing is exactly that.”
Floresta said Kincaid students were released early from class Wednesday, but this was a planned half day and not because of the coronavirus case. Parents and the wider school community were advised of the positive case and subsequent school closure about 4:30 p.m.
The school district is likely to follow the same procedure if any other positive coronavirus cases are identified in other schools, Floresta said, but it will also be a case-by-case decision based on the advice at the time from state officials.
He urged any parent, staff member or student of the Cobb school district to contact school district administration if they have heard of any other cases or are worried and need questions answered.
“We can only report what we hear and we know we don’t hear all of it,” he said.
For Kincaid students who don’t have computers or devices at home with internet access, Kincaid teachers will be physically delivering learning material to those students’ homes over the next two weeks so they don’t miss out, Floresta said. The school district told the MDJ Thursday it would be staff, not teachers, delivering the learning material.
Cleaning of Kincaid and its school buses will start within 48 hours of the school’s closure, a news release from the school district states.
“The district has planned for this scenario,” the release reads. “Our staff is working to keep our facilities clean, and our schools are reminding students about best practices for staying healthy including practicing good hygiene. Navigating these next days and weeks will take a team effort, but we believe that our community is well-prepared.”
As of the latest state update, Cobb County has one confirmed case of COVID-19 as well as six other “positive” cases that are subject to confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.