October 1: An Update on COVID-19 & Our Schools
October 1, 2020
From the Office of the Superintendent
To Our TCSS Families, Faculty, Staff, and Community,
As we first shared with you on September 3, the Tuscaloosa County School System is compiling data regarding COVID-19 and its impact on our schools. Although there are many aspects of student, employee, and health-related information we are unable to share publicly, due to the need to protect the privacy of individuals, there is information that we can and want to share with you. This is a way to keep our community informed of the current COVID-19 situation within our schools. If a student or faculty/staff member is identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case within the school, they will be contacted directly by their school.
The information below reflects cases from September 11-25, 2020. This information is compiled by our TCSS Department of Health Services, working in conjunction with administration at local schools.
We are aware of 84 TCSS students who have tested positive for COVID-19 during the September 11 through September 25 time period. This is less than one percent of the current on-campus TCSS student population. TCSS has approximately 19,000 students, enrolled across 34 schools. District-wide, approximately 60 percent of our students are currently attending school on campus. Some schools have as much as 80 percent of their students on campus.
Of the 84 positive student cases, over three-fourths of these were in students at the middle or high school level.
During this time period, a total of 425 students have had to quarantine, due to possible COVID-19 exposure. This is approximately three percent of our current on-campus student population. TCSS identified these students following Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines. These students were not identified because they displayed COVID-19 symptoms, but because they were determined to be close contacts of positive cases within our schools.
More than 300 of the 425 quarantined students were middle or high school students. At the secondary level, students come in contact with more of their peers, due to extracurricular activities and class changes, as compared to elementary school. This is a contributing factor to the greater numbers of students potentially exposed, when there is a positive COVID-19 case at a middle or high school. In the instance that an elementary school has a large number of students who must quarantine, it has typically been in very young students, such as pre-k or kindergarten, where distancing is much more difficult.
At this time, we do not have a total number of faculty/staff who have quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure since the start of school. However, on September 30, 2020, 45 employees were listed as absent under the “COVID-19” absence code. This is approximately two percent of our 2,275 employees. This does not mean an individual has a COVID-19 diagnosis, but they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or needed other COVID-19 related leave.
Considering the highly contagious nature of the virus, we continue to be encouraged that the steps we are taking to reduce risks in our schools are effective. These key steps involve wearing masks, social distancing, cleaning within our schools, hand washing, and quarantine for those who have been exposed to the virus. Although we can never be completely certain of the source of an infection, information provided to us by parents and guardians indicates the majority of positive student cases were likely contracted outside of school. In order to keep our infection rates down, we ask our entire TCSS community to maintain healthy practices outside of school. This is absolutely essential in keeping our students and staff members healthy and keeping our schools open and as safe as possible.