Since Monday, a total of 129 students and staff in Sumter School District have tested positive for COVID-19, and roughly 8.5% of all students have been directed to quarantine.
Those totals were as of the end of the school day on Friday and released by the district's spokeswoman.
In related news, the district's school board will take up another discussion on mask guidance at its meeting Monday.
School started in Sumter on Tuesday, and the 129 positive COVID-19 cases were not broken down by students and staff, according to Shelly Galloway, the district's executive director of communication and community engagement.
Districts across the state and nation are reporting similar totals this week as the delta variant of COVID-19 has spread rapidly.
A total of 1,338 Sumter students are in quarantine, including the positive cases, as of Friday after officials conducted contact tracing and determined "close contacts," Galloway added. That represents about 8% to 9% of the district's total enrollment, which is between 15,000 to 16,000 students.
A total of 41 teachers and staff, including the positive cases, were directed to quarantine this week after contact tracing. That represents a much smaller percentage - between 1.5% and 2% - of the district's total staff size, which is 2,000-plus personnel.
Sumter School District will begin publishing a COVID-19 dashboard on its website, sumterschools.net, on Monday, Galloway added. The dashboard will include data broken down by students versus staff and also school-level data.
In neighboring Kershaw County, its COVID-19 dashboard showed about 12% of the district's students in quarantine on Friday afternoon. Kershaw students have been in school 12 days, as opposed to four days in Sumter. Kershaw's quarantined student total is similar to Sumter with 1,330 students, but the district's enrollment is about 11,000 students. Seven staff were quarantined in Kershaw as of Friday.
One week ago, on Aug. 13, Pickens County - in the Upstate - reported 168 total students and staff had tested positive for COVID-19. At that point, Pickens had been in school nine days.
Back in Sumter, Superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox also issued a statement Friday detailing several strategies the district has in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Those include encouraging mask wearing, maintaining physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, cleaning and sanitizing schools and contact tracing when an individual tests positive.
Additionally, Martin-Knox stressed the importance for parents to monitor their children for virus symptoms and to not send their kids to school if they are sick or test positive for COVID-19.
She said the district will do all it can as far as communication.
"We strive to maintain open and transparent communication," Martin-Knox said. "We will continue to keep our families updated with current information. If a student tests positive, we will notify all close contacts directly."
MASK GUIDANCE ON MONDAY SCHOOL BOARD AGENDA
Sumter also released its district's Board of Trustees' meeting agenda for Monday night that includes more discussion on the use of face masks in schools. The mask topic is also listed as an action item after the board's executive session behind closed doors.
The board meeting will be at the district office, 1345 Wilson Hall Road, and will be open to the public, but seating is limited to first come, first served.
Because the meeting is the board's monthly work session, public participation is not listed on the agenda and will not occur.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m.
For those not physically attending, the district will continue to broadcast meetings live on YouTube.
All people wanting to attend the meeting virtually can do so via YouTube Sumter School District Board Meeting and the district's Facebook page,@SumterSCSchools.
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