November 10 Data Update on COVID-19 & Our Schools
November 10, 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 October 23 – November 6, 2020. This information is compiled by our TCSS Department of Health Services, working in conjunction with administration at local schools.
We are aware of 143 TCSS students or employees who tested positive for COVID-19 during the October 23 through November 6 time period. This is slightly less than one percent of the current on-campus TCSS population. TCSS has approximately 19,000 students, enrolled across 34 schools. District-wide, approximately 84 percent of our students are currently attending school on campus. TCSS has approximately 2,275 faculty/staff members.
During this time period, a total of 1209 students or employees have had to quarantine, due to possible COVID-19 exposure. This is approximately 6.5 percent of our current on-campus population. TCSS identified these individuals following Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines. They were not identified because they displayed COVID-19 symptoms, but because they were determined to be close contacts of positive cases within our schools.
This two-week period shows a significant increase in positive cases and close contacts of positive cases. However, it is important to note that 92 (64 percent) of the 143 known positive cases were within the population at Hillcrest High School (47 cases) and Tuscaloosa County High School (45 cases). With the exception of Brookwood High School, which reported 14 cases, all other schools in our system had fewer than five positive cases.
Over the past two weeks, TCSS has shared messages directly with the Hillcrest High and TCHS communities, informing them of the rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases within their school communities, and subsequently, the number of students needing to quarantine. In keeping with the pattern we have seen across our school system since the start of the school year, parent/guardian information indicates to us that the majority of student COVID-19 cases are being contracted outside of school. This information also indicates to us that more students are currently getting tested, but many are asymptomatic. While we cannot ensure that no one will contract COVID-19 on one of our campuses, we believe the social distancing measures and cleaning practices within our schools are effective in reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. We have many schools with a high percentage of students attending on-campus school, with few or no confirmed COVID-19 cases within the school population.
Across our system, 86 percent of those identified as close contacts (needing to quarantine due to possible COVID-19 exposure) were in middle or high schools. 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.
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 November 9, 2020, approximately 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. COVID-related absences, on top of the other typical reasons for employee absences, create a greater need for substitute teachers. While we are working to secure as many substitutes as possible, many of our regular substitutes are unavailable due to COVID-19. We encourage anyone who is available and wants to support our schools to consider becoming a substitute. This is extremely important. Information on becoming a substitute is available on the front page of our TCSS web site.
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. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within our community, and its effects on our school, we ask our students and families to please practice the same health-promoting habits that we practice in our schools. Your help in this, in the hours you are not at school, is absolutely critical to keeping our schools open and our students and educators healthy.
As we move into the holiday season, we ask everyone to be extremely mindful of the practices health experts say are effective in fighting COVID-19. As challenging as this situation is, we do believe we will come out of this time stronger and better prepared to overcome adversity.