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COVID-19 forces Burke school to close
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Burke County Public Schools

COVID-19 forces Burke school to close

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As COVID-19 cases surge in Burke County, it has forced the local school system to temporarily close one school.

Burke County Public Schools announced Friday that it closed Hallyburton Academy in Drexel after lunch was served on Friday.

Hallyburton Principal Jonathan Clontz sent a message to parents, telling them that due to the due to a high number of positive COVID-19 cases, isolations and quarantines, especially among the school’s staff, the school was closing through at least Wednesday. He said the hope is to resume classes on Thursday.

In the interim, teachers will work with students on any assignments, he said.

“We will update you next week if our return to class date changes,” Clontz said.

The decision was made to close Hallyburton due to the unavailability of a high number of instructional staff members to serve students because the staff members were either positive for COVID-19 or exposed to COVID-19, according to a release from Burke County Public Schools.

Hallyburton Academy has 20 staff members and 81 students.

As of 2:30 p.m. Friday, the school system was aware of 19 total student and staff positive cases and 50 student and staff exposures, according to Burke County Public Schools.

The release said the school system will continue to monitor the cases of COVID and exposures at each school and will handle each one on a case-by-case basis.

As for lunch options next week for Hallyburton students, any Hallyburton Academy student who would like to receive meals next week can call the cafeteria at Patton High School at 828-433-3133 by 8 a.m. on Monday morning and leave a message with the names of the students for whom they will be picking up meals, according to the release.

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The students will receive three breakfasts and three lunches. Pick up will be from 3-4 p.m. on Monday, the release said.

With virus cases rising in the county, they also have been rising in the school system.

During the week after Thanksgiving, the school system saw 37 positive cases of COVID-19. The following week positive cases dropped to 20 but then steadily started rising again until the week after Christmas.

The week of Dec. 27 through Jan. 2, the school system saw 121 positive virus cases, with 45 of those in the elementary schools, 32 in the middle schools and 41 in the high schools, according to figures from Burke County Public Schools.

This week, the school system had 140 total cases of the virus, with 51 in the elementary schools, 34 cases in the middle schools and 55 in the high schools, according to the figures.

To protect privacy, the school system does not break down how many cases were in children and how many in teachers and staff.

On Monday, the Burke County Board of Education is expected to decide on whether to require masks or keep masks optional in the schools.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. at Olive Hill Resource Center, located at 509 W. Concord St., Morganton.

Noon Monday is the deadline for potential candidates to fill an unexpired seat. The seat was left vacant with the death of member R.L. Icard.

In addition, the school board is expected to hear from Melanie Honeycutt, chief information officer for the school system, who will make a presentation on the media policy. School board leadership requested the presentation after some people have called for certain books to be banned.

Because of the rising COVID-19 cases, the capacity for the board meeting will be limited to 50 people, according to the board’s agenda.

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