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Charleston school district to add middle, high schools to COVID-19 notification system

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Coronavirus tests, pictured in December 2020, are available for use by Charleston County School District. School officials decided on Feb. 4 to expand their COVID-19 notification protocol to middle and high schools. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Charleston County School District officials are again changing how they alert families to coronavirus cases in the classroom.

Officials let parents know, via a notification on the district's phone application on Feb. 4, that middle schools and high schools would be included in email alerts sent to the parents of any student who shares a classroom with a COVID-19 positive person. 

Expanded notices will start going out Feb. 8 to all parents with students at CCSD middle and high schools if a person in their child's classroom tests positive for COVID-19, according to the district's notice. 

"This added notification does not change the protocol for close contacts, who will continue to get individual calls," according to the district. "Classroom notifications at the elementary school level began (in January)."

The expansion into middle and high schools comes after parent and community outcry prompted the district to change their policy on notification in January. 

More than 800 people signed an online petition calling on officials to update the notification policy, and the district started sending the alerts to all CCSD parents of early childhood, primary school or elementary school students.  

But middle and high schools were left out when the change was announced Jan. 15.

Prior to the January update, parents were only notified of a COVID-19 case if their child was deemed to be in "close contact" with a coronavirus-positive person.

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State public health guidelines define close contact as anyone who has been within 6 feet of a person with a positive case for 15 minutes or longer. 

With the most recent update, officials said it's important for parents to ensure their child's school has their correct email addresses so notifications get to parents as smoothly as possible. 

In December, several COVID-19 cases among students at Malcolm C. Hursey Montessori School led more than two dozen parents to send a collective letter asking the school and CCSD leaders to modify their notification policy. 

And in November, two months after South Carolina schools first reopened their doors to in-person learning, The Post and Courier found that school districts across the state had wide flexibility on how to let parents know about coronavirus cases in the classroom. 

The minimum obligation — to inform parents of close contacts. 

Some districts chose to inform all students who shared a classroom with a coronavirus-positive person in addition to close contacts. Others went as far as notifying the entire school district of every COVID-19 exposure. 

Parents can review CCSD coronavirus protocols, including the expanded notification system, on the district's  COVID-19 dashboard at www.ccsdschools.com/COVID-notification.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-323-9175. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

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