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In-person instruction suspended at Macon schools

After students and staff were exposed to positive cases of COVID-19, Macon County Board of Education decided to suspend face-to-face instruction at Union Academy, Mountain View Intermediate School and Macon Middle School beginning Aug. 26 through Sept. 11.

Highlands, Nantahala and Macon Early College will continue on with their current plans. Franklin area K-4 will continue on with their current plan throughout the remainder of this week and will then be re-evaluated. These decisions were made following an emergency meeting of the Board of Education Monday evening.

The spread of the virus has caused many staff members to be in isolation when they receive a positive COVID-19 test and others who’ve come into contact with a positive case have had to quarantine while waiting for their test results. This has created a staffing issue at several of the schools. 

“The suspension of instruction was not based on an outbreak of positive cases. The suspension of instruction is due to the loss of staff due to quarantine,” the press release from Macon County Schools stated. 

Even before Macon County students resumed classes Aug. 17, administration was already seeing the impact of staff returning to school. During an Aug. 17 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin confirmed that Friday, Aug. 14, a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19 and that other staff members were exposed on Monday, Aug. 17, after parents who had tested positive entered the school building.

On Aug. 19, Macon County Schools notified the public that members of Macon Middle School, Mountain View Intermediate School and South Macon Elementary School Cafeteria Teams tested positive as well, which impacted the school’s ability to serve meals to students. Luckily, volunteers stepped in to provide brown bag lunches for everyone.

“These individuals have been in quarantine since the beginning of the week and have not been on campus to expose students,” the press release said. “As a precaution, for faculty and students at MMS, MVI and South Macon, members of our cafeteria teams have been sent home to quarantine according to contact tracing protocols.”

On Aug. 20, Highlands School Principal Brian Jetter announced that one of the school’s custodians had tested positive for COVID-19. Even though the individual was in quarantine since the week prior and was not on campus to, all of the custodial team was sent home to quarantine and be tested according to contact tracing protocols.

On Aug. 22, Macon County Schools was notified that a staff member from Franklin High School as well as a student at Mountain View Intermediate tested positive for COVID-19. They are under quarantine and the health department is doing contact tracing.

Just a couple of hours later, the school system sent out another press release stating that a number of Franklin High School administrators, support staff, and teachers are under quarantine as a result of the positive case of COVID-19 identified at Franklin High School.”

“The staff members under quarantine will not be allowed to return to school for 10-14 days. These staff members are essential to the safety of our students. Therefore, it is in the best interests of the students at Franklin High School that face-to-face instruction be suspended through Sept. 11, 2020. At that time, conditions will be re-evaluated.”

By 5 p.m. that day, the school was notified that a student at Macon Middle School tested positive for COVID-19 and is under quarantine.

On Aug. 23, a student at East Franklin Elementary School tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantined. Contact tracing is currently underway through the Macon County Health Department. Any student or staff member identified through the contact tracing will be notified.

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