KERNSTOWN — The first COVID-19 outbreak of the 2021-22 school year for a K-12 school in the community was at Mountain View Christian Academy, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The private school in Frederick County had an outbreak one week before classes were set to begin on Aug. 25. Eleven staff members tested positive for COVID-19 after an Aug. 16 staff orientation, said Minta Hardman, the school’s founding administrator. For the safety of staff and students, the first day of school was delayed until Sept. 7, she added.

VDH was notified of the outbreak on Sept. 1.

VDH defines outbreak as “two or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among workers at a facility with onset of illness within a 14-day period, who are epidemiologically linked, do not share a household, and are not listed as a close contact of each other outside of the workplace during standard case investigation or contact tracing.”

No local public schools have closed due to COVID-19 so far this school year.

Hardman said Mountain View Christian Academy is complying with the state order requiring everyone entering public and private K-12 schools to wear face masks, but the school is also working with families who request accommodations to not wear masks for approved reasons. Before the order, the school planned to face masks optional, according to its website.

Winchester, Frederick County and Clarke County school divisions have online COVID-19 dashboards that regularly update the number of cases among students and staff.

WPS and CCPS also track the number of students and staff quarantining due to exposure. FCPS does not track student and staff quarantines, because “it is extremely challenging” to accurately track active quarantines due to the frequency of which students and staff must quarantine, said Steve Edwards, Frederick County Public Schools’ director of policy and communications. FCPS is the largest of the three area school divisions, with 13,771 students.

“We remain focused on utilizing our resources to complete thorough contact tracing when positive COVID-19 cases are reported to our schools and informing those students and staff who are determined to be close contacts in those situations so they can follow the proper protocols and help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus,” Edwards said.

Since Aug. 16, FCPS has had 148 COVID-19 cases among students and 28 cases among staff, the division’s online dashboard indicated Friday.

In Winchester Public Schools, there are six active COVID-19 cases among staff and 28 active cases among students, according to the division’s dashboard. Six staff members and 295 students are currently self-quarantining after coming in contact with an active case.

There are no student cases of COVID-19 at Clarke County Public Schools, but 12 students are currently quarantining after having contact with a known case. One staff member has an active case of COVID-19, and no other staff members are quarantining. CCPS Superintendent Chuck Bishop said the purpose of tracking quarantines is to alert the community about the amount of COVID-19 exposure the division is managing in its schools.

“What we are finding, just like last year, is that the vast majority of exposure is occurring in the community or from family members,” CCPS Bishop said. “Before we even started our first day of school in CCPS, a number of students were required to quarantine due to community or family exposure.”

Bishop added that division officials have noticed more confirmed cases of strep throat than COVID since the school year for CCPS students started Aug. 31.

Edwards noted there isn’t a specific set of criteria for closing schools amid an outbreak.

“In the event that the number of cases/quarantines we are experiencing in a particular classroom, grade level or school are impacting school operations to the point that the health department advises that it is prudent to transition to an all-distance learning model for a period of time, we will do so,” he said.

Bishop told The Star the division works closely with the Lord Fairfax Health District to determine if schools must close. Before closing a school, the division will try to quarantine or isolate individual students or staff first, then a classroom or a grade level if necessary, before closing an entire building.

“We are working collaboratively with our families and doing everything in our power to make sure students can stay in school,” Bishop said.

— Contact Anna Merod at amerod@winchesterstar.com

(3) comments

Chris 22602

Look at their Facebook page and you’ll see no masks. Guess masks work. What a hunch of hypocrites, claiming they know the love of God and yet putting children at risk. Shameful.

jake277

I believe it is the parents choice as to weather kids wear masks or not. NOT the over reaching government we now have.

TheOneAndOnlyNuri

You must oppose school dress codes, too, huh, avenger?

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