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Public schools release year’s first COVID numbers

30 positive cases, 54 exposures reported
Thursday, August 26, 2021
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Thirty students across Lincoln Parish public schools had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday — through just four days of classes in the new school year.

The first round of data released by the school district shows 84 total students across 12 campuses were absent Tuesday either because of a positive test (30) or exposure to another case of the virus (54).

Chief Pandemic Officer Lisa Bastion said those figures cover only those students who went into quarantine or isolation since the start of school on Aug. 19, not anyone who was already in quarantine or isolation before the school year began.

Those 84 students represent about 1.5% of the roughly 5,500 student population.

It also appears to include a faster pace of cases than the district saw last year.

While case reporting wasn’t immediately available when the 2020- 21 year started, by Oct. 27, 2020, the district was reporting 107 total, cumulative cases of the virus among students over the more than two months of school up to that point.

Superintendent Ricky Durrett said the cases and exposures are spread out enough across different schools, grades and classes that no classes have been shut down or disrupted thus far.

He also said the district has not been informed of any serious cases resulting in a hospital visit.

“We’re pretty comfortable with where we’re at,” Durrett said Wednesday. “We’ve got some cases in some schools, but none of it has been spread through school. The ones we’ve followed have gotten it from parents or some other event outside of school. We don’t know anybody that has COVID that got it from somebody else at school.”

The COVID absentee figures range from two to 21 at a given campus, with Simsboro School recording the most and Glen View Elementary, Hillcrest Elementary and Ruston Elementary recording the fewest.

The highest positive case count as of Tuesday at any one school was six.

Meanwhile, only six employees across the district have been in quarantine or isolation thus far, three for a positive test and three for exposure.

“The vaccine is one reason, and we also feel like wearing the masks is helpful,” Durrett said. “We kind of have more experience now of doing it for a year, so it’s a little bit easier to adjust.”

Students down to age five are also required to wear a mask when inside this year, and while it’s an adjustment for the lower grades, Durrett said compliance has gone smoothly thus far.

“We’ve not had any incidents of kids refusing to wear the masks or anything at school,” he said. “We think kids are wanting to keep each other safe in school, and they’re doing what we ask. It’s more of a challenge for the younger kids who didn’t do it last year. There’s a bit of learning, taking it off and readjusting it, but it’s gone very well.”

The mask rule was adopted in response to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide indoor mask mandate instituted at the beginning of August. It currently runs through Sept. 1.

The state’s top school board was slated last week to debate whether it wanted to challenge the mask mandate as it pertains to schools and allow individual parishes to make their own rules, but a raucous crowd in Baton Rouge prompted the board to adjourn that meeting early, leaving the mandate in place.

That board has since declared that it won’t call a new meeting to reconsider the matter.