Swain County Schools made the decision tonight to move students to Plan C due to a lack of staff available to keep class open. In addition to the lack of staff, there is also a large number of students quarantined due to exposure.
The decision was made at the recommendation of Superintended Mark Sale who said the district has received several complaints from teachers and staff concerned with the increase in COVID19 cases within the school system since the holiday break.
To slow the spread within the school system and to protect staff, Swain County Schools will be going into Plan C for the next two weeks while monitoring cases within the county. Originally the board was going to return to Plan C for the remainder of the month, however, they made the decision to shut down for two weeks while monitoring the situation.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Swain County currently has clusters within the school system as well as the Swain County Jail.
Since January 4, Swain County is reporting one new death and 45 new COVID19 cases.
Sale said that a big factor in his decision to close schools came that when a staff member called to inform him they had tested positive for not only COVID19 but also Pneumonia and due to current hospitalizations in the region, that staff member was having difficulty finding a hospital to treat them. With those issues in the community, Sale said he couldn’t in good conscience ask staff members to continue taking that risk at this point.
Initially, Sale recommended that athletics be able to continue because sports are voluntary and not required. However, members of the board asked to talk with coaches to better assess their desire.
Board member Cody White said that his concern with continuing sports is that if athletics continue, it could prolong the need for students to be in Plan C and keep them out of the classroom longer.
Sale said some coaches were texting him during the meeting and said if sports were canceled students would miss out on conference races and competitions.
For the time being, sports will continue in-person while instruction will move to virtual.