COVID-19 test leads Durham to close Southwest Elementary

Durham Public Schools is closing Southwest Elementary School until Wednesday because of a probable COVID-19 case in an employee, the school district announced Monday.

The closure marks the fourth time since August that DPS has temporarily closed a school after a positive coronavirus test.

Southwest Elementary School houses one of the district’s six remote learning centers, where students can learn in what is effectively a full-day child-care setting. It is also one of 25 schools serving as a food distribution site.

The learning center was closed Monday for a pre-planned teacher work day, DPS said in its release, but it will remain closed Tuesday. The Durham County Department of Public Health and DPS are working together on contact tracing to find anyone who may have spent 15 minutes or more within six feet of the employee to provide guidance on whether they should isolate or get a COVID-19 test, according to the release.

According to the DPS statement, families who would have picked up their food at Southwest Elementary School can instead do so at W.G. Pearson Elementary on Tuesday.

Both the feeding site and the learning center will reopen on Wednesday, DPS said.

Earlier this month, Hillside High School, which is being used as a feeding program site, closed after there was a “probable” positive case in an employee. And in late August, W.G. Pearson had to close for two days shortly after the remote learning program started there.

Shephard Middle School also had to close briefly following a positive COVID test, but the event happened in mid-August, before the building opened for remote learning.

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Adam Wagner is a Report for America Corps member covering North Carolina’s recovery from Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, as well as efforts to prepare the state for future storms. He previously worked at the Wilmington StarNews, where he covered multiple beats, including the environment.

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