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COVID declining in St. Clairsville schools

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Masks will remain optional in the St. Clairsville-Richland City School District as COVID-19 cases decline in the schools.

Superintendent Walter Skaggs confirmed Wednesday morning during the board of education’s meeting that the district’s mask policy will remain optional for students and faculty. He said the number of cases has declined over the last couple of days.

School nurse Kerry Shepherd said there are currently 13 positive cases among students and staff — 11 cases among students and two cases among staff. The cases break down to four positives in the elementary school, four in the middle school and five in the high school. There are also 17 close contacts reported among students and zero among staff.

“The (Belmont County) health department feels that three weeks ago should have been the peak for the delta (variant), so we should see a downward trend now,” she said.

Shepherd said she is anticipating a slight uptick following this weekend’s homecoming dance; however, the district’s numbers are still “very good.”

“There’s still no transmission in the classrooms other than the one special needs classroom. Anybody that has been isolated or quarantined because of a close contact in the classroom has not had any issues. It’s community-wide, it’s mostly in families,” she said.

Skaggs said he recently attended a statewide superintendents meeting in which other superintendents reported a decline in their schools’ case numbers as well. He said he hopes the downward trend continues.

In other matters, Belmont County Juvenile and Probate Judge Al Davies gave an update about some of the programs offered to students in the county. A couple of the programs he spoke about are the alternative school, which offers education to students suspended from school, and the virtual learning program, which offers an alternative to students who have a difficult time learning in a traditional classroom setting.

Davies said the leading cause of students being sent to the alternative school program, both this year and last year, is due to students using vaping devices.

“I’m trying to get as much information as I can out there about the destruction of nicotine addiction. It’s amazing to me the amount of misinformation about vaping,” he said, adding that he tries to educate youth that heroin and nicotine are the two most addictive drugs.

He said he is working to create a program for the schools to educate students more on the negative effects of vaping. Skaggs said people do not realize how bad vaping is for them and the long-term effects it can have on the person’s lungs.

Davies also talked about the Belmont County Schools Staying Clean program. He said the district is able to use some of the funds obtained through the program to sponsor other programs for students in the county. One of those programs occurred Wednesday at the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling. Students in the county were transported to the location to hear from speaker Nathan Harman.

“He’s a very dynamic speaker with a very impactful story. He was a drug addict, alcoholic, and was involved in a car accident. He was driving and killed one of his best friends. He went to prison, he was reformed, rehabilitated, reborn and now he has an amazing story that he can relate very well to the kids,” he said.

Another program is the Juvenile Justice Jeopardy Rollout that is put on by the St. Clairsville Police Department. It is a Jeopardy-style program in the classroom with a range of topics about police interactions, rights, and consequences of getting into trouble. Davies said he hopes to extend the program into other schools in the county.

Davies said they are resuming mock trials this year. He said the seventh-and eighth-grade program will resume in December.

“If we can make an impact on just one kid, I think it’s been a victory,” he said.

Davies thanked the board for its partnership on the programs.

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