Prince William County Schools Superintendent Dr. LaTanya McDade announced Friday that Bennett Elementary School in Manassa will close for one week due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the school.
It is the first school closure for the school division since PWCS returned to majority in-person learning in August 2020.
The school has 36 confirmed cases, three probable and an estimated 200 close contacts as of Oct. 8. As a result, the Prince William Health District recommended the closure.
From Oct. 12-15, students will participate virtually.
McDade informed PWCS parents across the division via an Oct. 8 email. "I am sharing this information with the entire School Division in the spirit of transparency," she said.
No other school has had a large-scale outbreak that would require a shutdown; there have been isolated incidents of COVID-19 infections in the schools.
Elementary students cannot yet get vaccinated against COVID-19, which makes them particularly vulnerable.
On Oct. 7, Pfizer asked the FDA to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for children age 5-11. The administration has scheduled a meeting for Oct. 26. It expects to make an announcement as soon as by the end of the month.
The CDC has scheduled its meeting for Nov. 2 and 3.
"Children rarely become severely ill from Covid-19, but the Delta variant landed nearly 30,000 of them in hospitals in August. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 5.9 million Americans younger than 18 have been infected with the coronavirus. Of the roughly 500 Americans under 18 who have died, about 125 were ages 5 to 11," said the NYTimes in an article published Oct. 7 by Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland. That article was updated on Oct. 14.
Prince William County Schools requires all educators to wear masks inside their school buildings when students are present, except while eating.
Superintendent's Email below:
Dear PWCS Families, Employees and Community,
I am writing to inform you of the first temporary pause of in-person learning at a school in the Division due to COVID-19 this school year. Late this afternoon, the Prince William Health District recommended a one-week temporary pause at Bennett Elementary School due to 36 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, three probable positive cases all in isolation, and more than 200 close contacts in quarantine. I am sharing this information with the entire School Division in the spirit of transparency.
At this time, there are no other schools in the Division that are approaching the threshold that would require a temporary pause of in-person learning. There are indications that the cause of the spread of the COVID-19 virus at Bennett Elementary School may be linked to both transmission in the community and the school.
This is an intervention to prevent and stop the spread of COVID-19 at Bennett Elementary. It is important to note that quarantine does not equate to illness, and while not all students at Bennett Elementary School are required to quarantine, this step is being taken out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff.
This decision was made under advisement by the Prince William Health District, based on the following considerations: number of cases experienced and their proximity in time to each other, the level of spread within the school, and the level of student absenteeism due to illness or necessary isolation or quarantine.
We will continue to collaborate with the Prince William Health District to monitor COVID-19 cases and implement additional mitigation strategies as needed for any school concerns that arise. We encourage all families to continue proper mitigation strategies in the community to prevent transmission. This includes wearing masks, handwashing, and vaccination for those who are eligible. At any time, if your child tests positive or exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please notify your child’s school and contact your health care provider. If you have questions or need additional information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
I appreciate your patience, cooperation, and support as we work together to keep our students and staff members safe and healthy.
LaTanya D. McDade, Ed.D.
Prince William County Public Schools