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Valley health district director on what it takes to close schools due to COVID-19

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 7:59 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is reporting more COVID-19 cases around the Valley and the entire commonwealth.

On Tuesday, Page County Public Schools announced it will close Shenandoah Elementary School until next Tuesday, Sept. 21 because of COVID-19.

Two days later, the school division announced both Luray Middle School and Luray Elementary School will close due to similar circumstances. The schools will reopen on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

In a letter to parents and guardians, Superintendent Antonia Fox said: “There are currently many students and staff who have COVID-19 symptoms who have been quarantined or isolated due to exposure. These positive cases and the large number of exposures have caused us to close several classrooms recently.”

So what does it take to shut down a school?

The Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD), which serves Page and Shenandoah counties, worked with Page County Public Schools to make this decision.

LFHD Director Dr. Colin Greene said there is not a specific, magic number of COVID-19 cases or students and staff quarantined that will close a school or classroom.

“What would happen that would make that occur would be that there are not enough staff to run it,” Greene said. “Or there is just such widespread intra-school spread of the disease that the feeling would be the students are better off at home.”

Greene said the second scenario is unlikely as there is more spread in the community and schools have more of a controlled environment.

To limit school closures, Greene advises parents and guardians to speak with their students about following the school’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies and protocols.

“The single best solution for children over the age of 12 is to get vaccinated,” Greene said. “The school districts that have larger percentages of their students vaccinated have a much, much lower quarantine requirement.”

Greene said schools will only be closed for the time necessary to meet the quarantine or isolation needs.

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