More than 20 face-to-face students and staff tested positive for COVID-19 in Forsyth County the week following fall break, bringing just a small rise in cases since mid-September.
According to data posted to the Forsyth County Schools website, 23 students and staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week of September, and six students and staff members tested positive during the fall break, which started on Sept. 21 and ended on Sept. 25.
One of the 435 transportation staff members also tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.
The website notes that 12 of the students or staff members and the transportation staff member who tested positive in the week following fall break did not have any direct exposure to others enrolled in or working at one of the schools.
Forsyth County Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo did note that "a large majority" of school bus riders at Matt Elementary School are now being quarantined after the driver of the bus failed to seat four siblings who tested positive for the novel coronavirus together on the bus last Friday as is required by system-wide safety measures.
"We are extremely disappointed that this occurred because our schools and staff have worked so hard to keep students healthy and safe over the past eight weeks of school," Caracciolo said
Drivers are required to follow a seating chart on each school bus that keeps siblings and those who have the same bus stop together to help reduce the spread of the virus.
"This one driver, out of over 350 plus drivers, failed to seat the four siblings who all tested positive together as is required," Caracciolo said. "We are working this week to determine the appropriate consequence for the driver, however, we will be unable to comment further since it is a personnel issue."
Caracciolo also said that, overall, 0.37% of face-to-face students and staff have faced direct exposure to the virus – out of 38,947 total students and staff, that would be around 144 individuals.
These numbers show only a slight rise in cases from before fall break when the school system reported 13 cases in one week, from Sept. 14-18.
Schools throughout the county stressed to students and parents online to keep safety measures in mind during the break, even offering safe, staycation alternatives for families who still wanted to go out and have fun.
Although the number of active positive cases in schools have gone up following the break, the number of students and staff who are quarantined after facing direct exposure to the virus continues to go down each week.
For now, Caracciolo said that the school system’s main focus is to make sure that everyone continues to follow safety guidelines as students continue with face-to-face learning.
“Our biggest challenge right now is to keep students that are able to wear a mask to consistently wear it throughout the day,” Caracciolo said. “They are comfortable with their peers and teachers who they have been around for eight weeks of school, but we must remain committed to practicing proactive behaviors to keep our schools healthy and safe.”
This article has been updated since its original publication.