Eight Upshur Schools Transportation Department employees test positive for COVID-19; 23 quarantined

BUCKHANNON – Eight Upshur County Schools Transportation Department employees – including two administrators – have tested positive for COVID-19, while another 23 are in quarantine as a result of an outbreak over the weekend, Upshur County Schools officials said Monday afternoon.

Upshur County Schools set up a drive-through testing site for 55 employees in the transportation department after school officials became aware of two confirmed COVID-19 cases Saturday morning, according to a previous story.

On Monday afternoon, Dr. Jeffery Harvey, director of safety and emergency preparedness for Upshur County Schools, and superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said following Sunday’s drive-through testing at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, six Transportation Department employees and two administrators within that department had tested positive for COVID-19.

Another 23 Transportation Department employees have been instructed by the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department to quarantine as a result of the outbreak over the weekend, Harvey said.

As of Monday at 1:30 p.m., there were 16 confirmed COVID-19 cases among students, staff and administrators within Upshur County Schools, with half of those resulting from the outbreak within the Transportation Department.

Harvey reported one confirmed COVID-19 case was a custodial staff member but said there was not a current outbreak among custodial staff.

“There is no outbreak among custodial staff, but we do have a positive case that is a custodian,” Harvey said.

The school system did not differentiate between affected students, teachers, administrators and staff to protect individuals’ identities, but released the following information regarding confirmed cases and quarantined people:

  • Buckhannon Academy Elementary School – no known cases, one person quarantined
  • Buckhannon-Upshur Highs School – five confirmed cases, 10 people quarantined
  • Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School – one confirmed case, one person quarantined
  • Fred Eberle Technical Center – no known cases, two people quarantined
  • French Creek Elementary School – no known cases, two people quarantined
  • Hodgesville Elementary School – no known cases, no one quarantined
  • Rock Cave Elementary School – no known cases, no one quarantined
  • Tennerton Elementary School – one confirmed case, five people quarantined
  • Union Elementary School – no known cases, no one quarantined
  • Washington District Elementary School – no known cases, one person quarantined
  • Transportation Department – six known cases, 25 people quarantine (two in quarantine are not related to the weekend outbreak)
  • Administration – two known cases, no one quarantined

Going forward, Harvey said it’s too early to tell how the outbreak among bus drivers and Transportation Department employees could affect having school in-person next week.

“The quarantine period is, of course, 14 days, and we are working with the health department on any options we may have given their status as essential workers,” Harvey said. “We’re not sure what the longer-term implications are at this point.”

The Transportation Department outbreak has not yet been traced to a single event, including a training that took place at B-UHS last week, Harvey said.

“We are doing tracing, and so far, there is not one single event that led to the outbreak,” Harvey said.

Stankus noted the training was purposely scheduled at the high school because B-UHS has enough room to allow for proper social/physical distancing. However, she said the bus drivers do regularly interact with one another.

“They certainly have contact with one another,” Stankus said of the bus drivers. “They are a team, and they work together, and they have more contact with one another than with the remainder of the employees in the school district.”

Stankus said she’d like to thank St. Joseph’s Hospital and Community Care of West Virginia for setting up a drive-through testing site on Sunday that enabled the school system to test 55 people.

“We are working very closely with our community partners, and we appreciate the assistance of Community Care and St. Joseph’s, and as always, we are completely amazed by the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department,” Stankus said. “Everyone’s just really working well together to keep the process as streamlined as possible, and we thank our partners for coming out on a Sunday.”

The school system received a slew of questions on social media from parents wondering why in-person school couldn’t be held for students who were able to secure their own transportation to and from school.

Stankus said that wasn’t a possibility because of concerns about fairness and equity.

“We have to provide everyone the same access to education,” Stankus commented. “Certainly, we want our students back in the classroom; we know the best place for students to learn is in the classroom with their teacher, but equity and safety have to be our priorities.”

Harvey said he’d like to remind everyone who’s been put on quarantine to adhere to their allotted time frame.

“I want to stress the importance of honoring the full term of quarantine,” Harvey said. “When the health department gives you a return date, we’d like you to honor that return date.”

News Feed

Subscribe to remove popups, or just enjoy this free story and support our local businesses!