Charleston County parents ask for COVID-19 caseload transparency in classrooms

Updated: Jan. 4, 2021 at 2:35 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After cases surfaced last month, parents with children in a North Charleston school are calling on Charleston County School District leaders to expand who gets notified when a child tests positive for COVID-19.

This week, 26 parents sent a collective letter to the principal of the Malcolm C. Hursey Montessori School asking for more widespread communication of confirmed COVID-19 cases after the school reported four cases in the week before winter break.

“During this time and the subsequent week, the school provided no communication regarding the positive COVID-19 cases,” the letter reads in part. “Because of the transparency of the initial parents several other children tested positive allowing us to slow the spread within the community.”

Three of Jillian Hollingsworth’s children tested positive for COVID-19. She said she did all she could to notify friends, other parents on social media and via the district’s contact tracing nurse.

While close contacts she personally knew were notified, she believes everyone in a class with a COVID-19 positive student should be made aware.

“We want every single parent and or guardian alerted that there was a positive case reported in your student’s classroom,” Hollingsworth said. “We don’t need to know names, we just want to know that there was a case reported.”

CCSD policy states students and parents are only notified if they are deemed close contact with a COVID-19 positive person. That means less than 6 feet for 15 or more minutes.

Toni Reale, whose child is in the same class as one of Hollingsworth’s children, said she immediately took her child out of the classroom. Her child later also tested positive for the virus.

“Without Jillian speaking up, the other children would not have gotten tested,” Reale said.

Parents are also asking for more testing options to be made available for asymptomatic children. Right now, the district is only allowing testing to symptomatic students and staff.

“We know that the virus spreads among children and shows up as asymptomatic and so you could have all of these children infected and showing no symptoms,” Hollingsworth said. “Well, if you wait until they show symptoms then they may never show symptoms, my kids never showed symptoms.”

In the meantime, dozens of parents at the school have begun sharing COVID-19 information on their own using a private social media group to share information and confirmed cases in an effort to curb any future spread.

“Transparency I believe is what is going to keep our community safer,” Reale said. “On that page we have free testing information, someone the other day posted that they needed to go get testing or where was best place.”

The group says while they are disappointed with how their cases were handled, they want to support the school’s administration in any way they can.

“We are family and we work together and always have and do whatever it takes,” parent Amber Forbes said.

The school’s motto is “whatever it takes.”

“We’re here for the school and we want to support in person options and we all feel strongly that that is what’s best for our kids if it’s done right, if it’s done safely,” Hollingsworth said.

CCSD spokesperson Andy Pruitt addressed the cases in December with a statement saying:

“While we do not provide specific details about cases associated with our schools and district offices, we can confirm we are following our quarantine protocols associated with the positive cases at Hursey Montessori. Following a contact tracing investigation, if an individual or individuals are determined to be close contacts with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they are notified directly and required to go into quarantine.”

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