Jim Pearson Elementary School

File / The Outlook

Jim Pearson Elementary students file into class on their first day of school last week. More than 60 students are currently in isolation for COVID-19 exposure.

Sixteen Jim Pearson Elementary School students are currently positive for COVID-19, exactly one week into the new school year.

One staff member also has the virus, according to Alexander City Schools' COVID-19 data dashboard.

"We are in difficult times," superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford said at a school board meeting Tuesday. "Everyone can look at the news; Tallapoosa County and Alexander City (are) not exempt to that in regards to COVID. So we are going to deal with that every single day."

The 16 students represent only 2% of the school population, but according to Lankford, those students are spread across multiple grade levels while "probably over 60" are in isolation for close-contact exposure.

While Alabama Department of Public Health has loosened the definition of close contact — masked students maintaining three-foot distance due not have to quarantine —  students exposed to a confirmed COVID case at home must isolate for 10 days.

"As soon as they're isolated, we want to see how many of those actually end up testing positive," Lankford said, adding he'd be consulting with local pediatricians Dr. Chante' Ruffin (who is also vice president of the school board) and Dr. Eric Tyler.

"We're going to visit the school (Wednesday) so that we can actually look at the configuration and figure out maybe some best practices that we don't know... Maybe we keep kids in quadrants so we do not have to close-contact or isolate so many students," Lankford said.

Five Stephens Elementary School students, one Radney Elementary School student, five Alexander City Middle School students and six Benjamin Russell High School students are also currently COVID-positive.

District-wide, 4 out of 304 employees are COVID-positive.

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