Accomack School Year Begins Amid COVID-19 Resurgence

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By Stefanie Jackson – Accomack County Public Schools welcomed 4,204 students back to the classroom Tuesday, and enrollment is expected to increase, Superintendent Chris Holland announced at the school board meeting Tuesday night.

The first day of school began and ended without any major issues. Arcadia Middle School students were dismissed at noon Wednesday due to an air conditioning system failure, and Holland said students would attend school virtually on Thursday while repairs were made.

Coordinator of School Health Services Tonya Martin reported Tuesday night how many Accomack school employees and students had tested positive for COVID-19: zero teachers, one staff member, and 18 students who did not attend school on opening day.

Accomack County had six new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and a seven-day average of 15 cases per day, she said.

Martin noted that for the period of Sept. 1-7, Accomack reported 102 cases of COVID-19, compared to 117 cases one week before and 130 cases two weeks before, indicating the numbers are trending downward.

She said Accomack has been invited to participate in a pilot program for COVID-19 screening, called ViSSTA, or Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance.

The program is a collaboration of the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education for giving point-of-care COVID-19 tests to randomly selected, asymptomatic individuals in schools, with the goal of reducing COVID-19 transmission.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 50% of COVID-19 transmissions are from individuals with no symptoms.

Around 10% to 20% of school staff and/or students would be tested weekly on a volunteer basis; consent forms would be needed for all participants.

The names of those tested would not be provided, but if anyone tested positive, the test would be given a second time and names would be provided so the COVID-19-positive person could be identified and quarantined.

A grant will pay for the program and coordinator, Martin said.

The school board will decide at its Sept. 17 meeting if Accomack schools will participate.