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Triad health departments prepare for kids to go back to the classroom

Forsyth County Health Director Joshua Swift said a gradual return to the classroom and splitting students into cohorts will help slow the spread of COVID-19.

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Editor's note: The video above is from a previous story. 

Some Triad school districts are already back in the classroom, while others are preparing to phase students in gradually in the next few weeks. 

Forsyth County Public Health Director Joshua Swift said his office will continue their contact tracing efforts as students return to class.

"The school system has hired staff who will help us and notify us of any positive cases that they have in their classrooms and then we will connect those individuals with a contact tracer and a case investigator so this will help us to more quickly identify those contacts and take appropriate action," said Swift. 

Swift said cohorts will be key in slowing the spread and helping to more quickly identify possible exposures. 

"We’d be able to see because we have those cohorts, you’ll know exactly who was in the classroom and our hope is that the students will be socially distanced as much as possible so it may only affect those students who were very close in proximity to the student in the classroom," said Swift.

Swift said the next steps vary from case to case. 

"Really it all depends too on the nature of how many cases there are in a classroom or whether cases are spread out in the whole school in regards to what will have to be done after that," said Swift. 

RELATED: Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to vote on re-entry plan

Swift said if a positive case comes up in a school, a contact tracer and case investigator will be in touch with the individual or parent/guardian of the student.

"Then working with the teachers and staff at the school we could determine who the close contacts were," said Swift. 

Swift said the health department will not only take into consideration close contact inside the school but outside the school as well. 

Swift said the health department has 30 people from the state that are dedicated to contact tracing in Forsyth County. 

"So, they have been trained and are working with the school system and they have been trained on how to do that effectively," said Swift. 

Swift said in August the health department walked through schools with staff and district administration to help them prepare for students' return to class. 

"To allow for proper social distancing, sneezeguards," said Swift, "Other things they can do for cleaning and for separation for keeping kids safe and faculty and staff."

The Triad's two largest school districts have voted on and approved a re-entry plan that gets kids back to the classroom in some form. 

The Winston-Salem Forsyth County School district will start it's phased-in approach in the coming weeks. Under the approved plan, elementary students back to the classroom on Oct. 26. Kindergarten through third grade will go back Nov. 2, and grades fourth through fifth will return Nov. 16. 

WS/FCS says middle school students will be divided into cohorts and attend school in person either two days every week or two days every other week depending on school enrollment.

RELATED: GCS re-entry plan includes scheduled times for handwashing, deadlines for bus transportation

The Guilford County School Board approved a re-entry plan that starts bringing students back to class in late October. 

The approved plan allows all of pre-K through second grade to return to the classroom full-time on Oct. 20. 

A week later, on Oct. 26, grades 3-5 would phase in full-time. 

At the middle school level, students will return for two-days of in-person learning per week. Under the plan, half of the middle school students will attend Mondays and Tuesdays, the other half on Thursdays and Fridays.

Wednesdays will be reserved for remote instruction to allow for deep cleaning of buildings between student groups. The schools will also be cleaned Friday evenings.

  • Sixth-grade students will begin on Oct. 20.
  • Seventh and eighth-graders will return on Oct. 26.

High school students will follow the same guidelines when they return on Jan. 20, according to the district. 


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