How and when schools will notify families if there is a positive COVID-19 case

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CAPE FEAR REGION, NC (WWAY) — Most students are back in the classroom and COVID-19 cases are rising in North Carolina. Parents are wondering if they will be notified if there are cases in their child’s school.

Each district has their own protocols for reporting positive cases.

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“We make sure that anyone who possibly could have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 is contacted to let them know,” Pender County Schools Spokesperson Alex Riley said.

Riley explains parents will only be notified of positive cases if their child has come in contact with the virus.

“The health department helps us with any quarantining protocols, isolation protocols, recommending someone get tested, all those sort of things,” he said.

Pender County Schools’ main priority is protecting the community. Riley says while the schools continue to grow, it could be easy to identify which student or teacher is sick if an entire school is notified.

For example, if an entire school is notified that one second grader came in contact with COVID-19, it could be easily narrowed down when there’s only 50 to 60 second graders in the school.

Riley says they do not want to violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or create a panic and they are taking all necessary steps to notify those who come in contact with the virus.

“[We’re] not trying to provide the information so they can pinpoint that this is the student that has it or this is the teacher that has it,” Riley said. “It’s a delicate balance between protecting anonymity and protecting the community.”

However, Riley said a school-wide notification would be issued if several classrooms were asked to quarantine.

Brunswick County Schools operate similarly, but have created a dashboard that is updated daily with which schools currently have active cases.

New Hanover County Schools not only notify students who have been in contact, administrators will send out school-wide calls or email to notify parents of positive cases and contacting those directly who have been in contact with the virus.

New Hanover County Schools utilize a dashboard as well, updated weekly.