Note: This story was updated at 10 a.m. Aug. 7.
Face masks will be required at Willow Brook Elementary School starting Monday as the number of COVID-19 cases has jumped in a few days from one case to 12. That’s more than half of the 22 current cases in Oak Ridge Schools.
The first case at Willow Brook was a staff member who had been infected, according to a report around Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, the outbreak at Willow Brook had grown from one COVID-19 case to 12. Eight of those were student cases, and four were staff cases.
“At this point in time, our data supports mandating masks for students and staff at Willow Brook Elementary School starting on Monday,” Oak Ridge Schools told families in an email Friday. “When active cases and transmission decrease, we will have the option to lift this mandate and return to making the wearing of masks optional.”
The overall number of current cases in Oak Ridge Schools has almost tripled from eight current cases on Tuesday or Wednesday to 22 on Friday.
Masks have been optional so far this school year. The school year started for students about 1.5 weeks ago, on Wednesday, July 29.
The other COVID-19 cases are four each at Oak Ridge High School and Robertsville Middle School (eight total), and three at Jefferson Middle School. One COVID-19 case at ORHS is a recovered case, leaving three current cases at the high school.
The school system has a case count dashboard that is updated daily and posted on its website at COVID Information – Oak Ridge Schools (ortn.edu).
In the email to families, Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers said there are many viewpoints regarding masks, with some people advocating for them and others strongly opposed.
“We expect that there will be times throughout this school year where we will experience an increase in COVID being transmitted at a particular school(s), which will mean a mask mandate will be needed,” Borchers said. “Please know that this does not mean that a particular school(s) will need to wear masks for the entire year. We will monitor data and make decisions on when to mandate and when to recommend masks throughout the school year. This approach will allow us to address the current need at each building rather than making a district-wide decision that isn’t necessary.”
Borchers said an epidemiology and laboratory grant allows school nurses to test students and staff members that exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, with results available within 24 hours. Parent permission is required before testing a student for COVID, Borchers said.
“We continue to express our appreciation of the precautions our students, families, and staff members take in the interest of keeping our families healthy,” Borchers said. “Together as a community, we are working hard to ensure a safe learning environment for our staff and students. We will continue to work quickly and collaboratively with the Anderson County Department of Health in the best interest of the health and safety of our Oak Ridge Schools’ families.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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