School system adapts to COVID surge

HAMLET — The Richmond County School Board unanimously approved a motion to keep the universal masking policy in every school at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Chief Health Officer Cheryl Speight presented the latest data to the council on Tuesday evening.

Currently, there is a 30% positivity rate in Richmond County. The total percentage of the population eligible for vaccination (five years and over) who have received both doses of the vaccine is 50%, below the national average of 63%. Individuals fully vaccinated with the booster are at 25.7%.

“Our testing was overdone,” Speight said. They were doing an average of 200 to 300 tests a week before Christmas. Now they average 350 tests a day.

According to the Richmond County Schools COVID Tracker, 25 students and six staff members tested positive on Tuesday. A total of 672 students and 149 staff have tested positive this year.

Speight added that as of Friday, the Department of Health no longer had any rapid tests for COVID.

Testing is being conducted at the Health Department, as well as in the Cole Auditorium parking lot from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Speight said that although long lines wrap around the health department, the Cole Auditorium is “underutilized.” .”

Speight warned that there could be positive news on the horizon regarding the Omicron variant, which is responsible for almost all of the positive cases. She referred to experts noticing a sharp rise in cases in Africa, where Omicron originated, which then quickly dissipated.

“What we might see is a peak around mid-January, with the numbers dropping in February,” Speight said.

Various board members asked clarifying questions about the COVID data, including Ronald Tillman, who asked how RCS staff are affected by the increase in positive cases.

Superintendent Dr Jeff Maples said around 15 bus drivers were absent and their infant nutrition service was also affected. Substitute teachers also had to replace absent teachers.

Maples thanked the Department of Health for its “constant” communication with the school system.

REACH achieves a perfect graduation rate

Richmond Early College High School achieved a 100% graduation rate last year in a year of mostly virtual learning.

“As you know, this past 2020-2021 school year has seen many challenges for all students in Richmond County Schools,” said Dr. Kate Smith, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

Principal Joy Harrelson received a certificate from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. This certificate recognized the barriers and obstacles that students faced.

Smith said Harrelson credits the success of REaCH to its team of teachers and staff who worked many hours with their students to ensure they got through the stage.

“We cannot forget those students who worked through this tough school year and prevailed,” Smith concluded.

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Contact Matthew Sasser at 910-817-2671 or [email protected]

Jeremy S. McLain