A Wayne County school has closed after a major coronavirus outbreak

A primary school near Goldsboro has been ordered closed for two weeks after eight people at Brogden Primary School tested positive for the coronavirus.

Wayne County Public Schools (WCPS) issued a statement late Tuesday notifying parents and teachers about the outbreak and school closure. The first positive test was recorded Sept. 29.

Brogden will transition to full-remote learning for the next two weeks, school officials said.

“As has already occurred with other non WCPS schools in our county and region impacted by COVID-19 on their campuses, we are transitioning this particular school to full remote to allow time for the district to deep clean the building and for any staff or students who may have been potentially exposed to remain home to self-monitor for symptoms,” said James Merrill, the district’s interim superintendent.

Brogden serves approximately 800 students in PK-4th grade and has a staff of roughly 65.

On Wednesday, Tiffany Kilgore, president of the Wayne County Association of Educators, said seven teachers and one custodian tested positive for the virus at the school.

Tiffany Kilgore

Brogden staffers contacted Kilgore on Wednesday to complain that daily cleaning and sanitizing at the school isn’t being done properly.

She said one staffer complained that custodians are using “squirt bottles” and “garden sprayers” to sanitize buildings instead of large fogging machines purchased by the district. Another reported that at least five bathrooms at the school are not in working order, which makes handwashing and social distancing difficult.

Kilgore wants all schools should move to remote learning to keep students and teachers safe, She said every school employee should be tested for the coronavirus as well.

“We all can agree, simple basic fact, that children do better with face-to-face learning,” Kilgore said. “But what it comes down to is one simple thing; what is safest? When we decided to open schools for in-person instruction, we didn’t put the well-being of students and teachers in the forefront.”

In August, Kilgore and WCPS teachers were unable to convince the WCPS Board of Education to keep schools closed to in person instruction.

“We should have been more cautious, and now we’re paying the price for those sins,” Kilgore said.

Kilgore tested positive for the coronavirus in August. Months later, she still suffers from shortness of breath, elevated blood pressure and other medical issues for which she’s being treated.

<em>Wayne County Health Department</em>

WC Health Department

Kilgore worries that colleagues who have contracted the virus, and children who might be  infected, will have lasting medical conditions.

“This virus is so novel that we don’t know the long term effects,” Kilgore said. “Three or four years down the road we could find out that these children have heart conditions that can’t be reversed.”

Kilgore says at least two WCPS employees have died after contracting the coronavirus. The deaths of a custodian and teacher’s assistant have not been directly link to their work, however.

As many as 60 WCPS school employees and several students have tested positive for the virus since August 18, according to data collected by Kilgore.

A Wayne County private school — Wayne Christian School — is the site of the state’s largest coronavirus school cluster, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Dashboard. Six staff members and 34 students at the school have tested positive for the virus.  A cluster is when five or more people test positive over a 14-day span.

News of the outbreak at Brogden comes days after a Stanly County third-grade teacher at Norwood Elementary School lost her battle with the coronavirus.

Mrs. Julie Davis died Sunday after first experiencing symptoms on Sept. 25. Stanly County Health Director David Jenkins has said Mrs. Davis did not contract the virus while working at the school. Third-grader students and teachers were told to quarantine after Mrs. Davis contracted the virus.

Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the NC Association of Educators, called Davis’ death “preventable” in a strongly worded statement late Monday.

“It is absolutely clear that this was a completely preventable death,” Walker Kelly said. “Julie did not have to die in order for her to teach her students, nor should any of our educators have to make the decision between doing the jobs they love and risking their lives.”

Walker Kelly said will iscuss teacher safety during the COVID-19 pandemic “in the coming days and weeks.”

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