Moore: Closing classrooms has helped slow COVID increase

Cocke County Director of Schools Manney Moore told the school board Thursday evening there are five new COVID cases among students this week and three new cases among staff. Several weeks ago there were about 20 total cases in the system, but Moore said closing down several classrooms has reduced the number of cases.

Assistant Director Casey Kelley reported there are some issues with the wastewater treatment facility at Cosby School that will need to be addressed. The school was closed one day last week while 8,000 gallons of waste was pumped out of the septic system.

Kelly also talked about the thinking that goes into the decision to close down a classroom or school for days after COVID cases are detected.

He said closures are not necessarily the result of a large number of positive COVID tests but often are an effort to keep a positive finding from spreading. He said the issue is contact tracing and the potential that a whole classroom of students would have to be sent home because of a positive exposure.

“Since Aug. 17, we’ve had 824 students and 173 staff who have been excluded from attendance. Not all were excluded for 14 days, some were out only a day or two while they awaited testing results.”

Kelley said it is “exclusions from attendance” that lead to a decision to close a classroom or to transition from the classroom to remote learning.

The board approved plans by the Newport Theatre Guild to use the Cocke County High School auditorium for an upcoming production, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The project will follow CDC guidelines.