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Leona Middle School stays open despite COVID case

SHADYSIDE — The first case of COVID-19 to turn up in a Belmont County school was announced Tuesday, with Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reporting a positive test result for a Leona Middle School student.

The school, which educates 215 children, is remaining open.

“We are working with the school. The positive has been isolated and presently 18 close contacts have been quarantined,” Sproul said via text.

Shadyside schools Superintendent John Haswell confirmed this later and posted it on the school district’s website.

“I was contacted by the health department,” he said. “We worked with the Belmont County Health Department all day long doing contact tracing. The Belmont County Health Department contacted the parents of the kids that we identified as possibly being … exposed. … They’re going to quarantine for a certain period of time.”

Haswell declined to provide information on the infected person, but Sproul said it is a student.

Haswell added that school will continue today.

“We’re going to remain open,” he said. “We sanitize daily and nightly. We don’t have to close to deep clean, we deep clean every night, so we’re just going to monitor the situation real close.”

“If we get more positive cases in the future, we’ll have to reevaluate, but right now it’s just one,” he said.

He said he has every confidence the district’s preparations will be sufficient to meet the challenge of infection. The school districts have been planning throughout the summer.

“Everything kicked in. I just happened to be the first one in Belmont County, the first school district. I know I won’t be the last,” he said. “It was very, very beneficial, with my relationship with the Belmont County Health Department.

“We’ve been talking since March with them, all the superintendents, and we just had an open line of communication back and forth,” he said.

“Our parents and the entire district have been made aware of the situation,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but we’re living in a pandemic. It was going to happen.”

Some of the preparations included grouping the students in class and during bus rides, so the district can use seating charts and other methods to quickly identify who might have contracted the infection.

“It was very easy to identify,” Haswell said. “And just because these kids were around this person, this doesn’t mean they have it. They’re quarantining out of precaution.”

Haswell said he has spoken to some of the parents who contacted him. He could not speculate if more parents will take an online learning option.

“Each individual parent will make a decision on what they believe is best for their family. The good thing is, if they choose to go remote, we’re prepared to teach that way. If they choose to send their child to school, we’re prepared to teach that way. Whichever way the parents decide to go,” he said.

“(Thursday’s) a normal day,” he said. “We just hope and pray it’s an isolated case.”

This comes after a coronavirus case was reported in Beallsville School in Monroe County caused the school to shift to remote learning after a COVID case connected with the K-12 school was reported.

Earlier that morning, Sproul had given a positive report to the Belmont County board of commissioners, with only one new case from Belmont County and another who had tested positive and been re-tested with another positive result.

After the results from Leona, there are now a total of 740 positive cases with 676 recoveries, 34 people isolated with active cases of the virus and five hospitalized. A total of 25 people have died while infected with the virus in Belmont County, including nine inmates at the Belmont Correctional Institution.

The Ohio National Guard will hold another free pop-up test across from Bellaire High School 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday. A third and final free testing will be held the same time Oct. 3 at Ohio University Eastern.

More information about the state of Leona Middle School can be found at http://shadysideschools.com/middle-school-home/

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