Coastal Christian High School sees largest COVID-19 outbreak in state

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Coastal Christian High School is currently experiencing the largest coronavirus outbreak of any school or childcare facility in the state according to new data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

There’s been a reported 30 cases in total. 26 of those are among students, four among staff.

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Junior Lily Sikorski says she believes most students have been following COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’ve been wearing masks and we’ve been trying to social distance as much as we can, but obviously we can’t always do that because of the locker spacing and at lunch we have to take our masks off to eat,” she said.

Sophomore Angela Burnett agrees.

“I think it’s probably some lunch, sports events and things like that too, like just the teams and everything,” Burnett said. “But I’m actually on the basketball team and we’re wearing masks and social distancing now during practice.”

Sikorski’s mom Ivey believes off-campus gatherings could be to blame for the spread. She feels the school has done a good job in its response.

“I think they’re doing the best that they can, I feel like we consistently get emails updating us,” Ivey Sikorski said. “We are given the names of the students that have had positive tests so that we’re able to contact trace or they will do the contact tracing.”

Because Coastal Christian is a private school, they are not bound by the same restrictions as public schools and have been open for full-time in-person learning.

Head of School Brenda McCombie says after learning of four positive cases the week before Thanksgiving, she made the decision to extend the holiday break to include the whole week and then shift to remote learning through December 4th.

The younger Sikorski says she’s not going to let this outbreak scare her away from returning to school in person next week.

“That’s the risk that we took going back to school, and everybody knew that,” she said. “I think it’s worth it, just because my grades personally are better when I’m in person.”

Here’s the full statement from McCombie:

“Week before last I had a report of one individual who tested positive for COVID 19. Two days later an additional three students reported positive COVID test results as well. To ensure that those who tested positive, along with those who needed to quarantine remained off campus, I made the decision to extend Thanksgiving break to include the Monday and Tuesday which fell prior to the already scheduled days off for the week. 

Thanksgiving week was an enjoyable break allowing our families extra time to spend reflecting on what we are all truly thankful for. As the week progressed, our administrative team met to consider the best approach to upcoming mid-year exams as we followed the COVID numbers for New Hanover County and in our community. After some consideration, I made the decision to toggle to remote learning for the week of November 30 – December 4. Coastal Christian High School is not closed, but rather open with our faculty providing instruction synchronously by Google Meet. This ensures that anyone who is not feeling well or who has been exposed to a COVID positive person remains off campus for a full 14 days.

I have worked with the New Hanover County Health Department and the staff there to report the cases of students who were on campus with positive test results. They have also traced additional cases that may have been related to our students. The Health Department employees have been wonderful to work with. They are very thoughtful and working very hard to identify cases and support our community. I have enjoyed a relationship with them throughout this pandemic.

Our families have been open and honest with our leadership team and with one another during this trying time. Parents have allowed their children’s names to be shared confidentially within our school community and all cases have been reported to the New Hanover County Health Department. This has allowed the CCHS community to spend time praying for one another and offering kind words of support. We will continue to make decisions week by week regarding when to hold classes on campus face to face and when to toggle to remote instruction.

Coastal Christian High School made the decision beginning with the first day of school in August to require that masks be worn on campus following the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit recommendations. Temperature checks have been used regularly in some scenarios such as athletics, but are not used as a daily requirement for entrance to the building. Coastal has been blessed to be open since August enjoying face to face instruction and extracurricular events with minimal interruption. Our administrative team spends much time in prayer and consulting with health care professionals in an effort to make wise decisions in regard to this worldwide pandemic.”