Halifax County Public Schools won’t return to in-person instruction until at least the week of Feb. 15 depending on the county’s positivity rate of COVID-19 cases as they work to drive that number down and get employees vaccinated in the meantime.
A total of 200 school employees are set to get the first round of their vaccinations this weekend at a clinic at Halifax County Middle School, as confirmed by Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg. This clinic is not open to the public.
Lineburg said unfortunately this does not cover everyone who has requested to take the vaccine, but he said the health department simply doesn’t have enough at the moment.
But, he said, “I’m glad to get started.”
The Halifax County School Board previously had approved pre-k through third grade students returning Feb. 2, if health numbers were favorable.
Lineubrg announced Tuesday afternoon that they were going to delay that return by at least Feb. 15. But, being that Feb. 15 is President’s Day, the earliest they would return is actually Feb. 16.
“We hope this allows us to get our first round of vaccinations for our employees, and we hope the health matrix will improve during this time. In the meantime, we ask for your patience and appreciate all of your patience in the past year. We look forward to seeing students back in school soon,” Lineburg said in his announcement on the school system’s Facebook page.
The superintendent explained Wednesday that with them being so close to being able to administer vaccines to employees, they felt it was best to get those inoculations in, which he thinks will help others feel safer about the return, and hopefully see the county’s positivity rate trend downwards, before reopening their buildings to students.
Halifax County moved into Phase 1b for vaccinations earlier this month, which includes K-12 teachers and other school staff.
Head nurse Tina Slabach said their plan is to utilize Halifax County Middle School gymnasium. The head nurse also said all school nurses are being trained to administer the shots and will be monitoring individuals after they receive the shot. She also said the school system would not be responsible for storage and handling of vaccines.
Slabach and Lineburg anticipate that the first shot could be administered to all employees in two days.
The vaccine is administered in two rounds weeks apart.
The superintendent also hopes by delaying the return to in-person learning, it will drive the county’s positivity rate down.
Dr. Lineburg said Wednesday that Halifax County’s positivity rate on Monday was 26%, the highest it had been to date, and he had a meeting later Wednesday morning to get more updates.
The rate measures the positive results against the overall number of people tested. Health experts have said a high rate indicates the illness is not under control in a community.
Lineburg along with Slabach follow the numbers weekly to see when it is safe for students to return to the classroom.
“We’re doing our very best to figure out the best path,” the superintendent said.
The superintendent also said in his Tuesday announcement they will implement mitigation strategies. Preventive measures have been part of ongoing discussions at recent school board members to include a variety of cleaning, sanitization, distancing and limitation of visitor measure.
“Our cautious approach will be to bring back small groups of students and build confidence in our approach to returning students. Thus, the moment it is safe enough for us to return students back to school - we will,” Lineburg said in his announcement.
In addition to alerting parents and the public via Facebook, the superintendent said they also sent out alert calls.
He also anticipates that the return of students will be part of ongoing discussions at upcoming school board meetings, with the next one set for Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Halifax County Middle School cafeteria.
As the days get closer to Feb. 15, Lineburg said they would once again make a decision about whether or not to move forward with the return of students and let parents know.
“We hope it doesn’t change,” said Lineburg. “But it could. We would like to get our students back.”