(updated to include comments from Dr. Jason Walton, Head of External Affairs)
Upper School students at Northpoint Christian School are learning remotely for the next several days after the discovery of students who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Head of School Jim Ferguson sent a letter to parents of the school’s students on Wednesday detailing what will take place. In the letter, Ferguson stated that students in grades 9-12 will shift to remote learning through Sept. 11. The decision will not affect students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, who will still need to report to in-person class.
Students not serving quarantines for either being positive or being in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus will return to school on Monday, Sept. 14.
The move also affects extracurricular activities for Northpoint Christian School. No activities, practices, or games for any students in grades 1-12 will take place on the campus. Several teams have already posted postponements on their website calendars. That includes football games at St. George’s of Collierville this Friday and at home the following Friday night against Millington, Tenn. Central.
Director of External Affairs Dr. Jason Walton said Thursday afternoon that about 50 students were being sent to quarantine due to coronavirus exposure. That does not mean there were that many positive cases, but rather that many who may have been in close contact with someone, either in school or out of school, who tested positive. Tuesday’s letter said that more students were added to the list.
A few students early in the week were found to be positive and contact tracing led to identifying the 50 students who were sent to quarantine.
“We had 3-4 early in the week, so we contact traced and identified people who could have potentially had contact,” Walton said. “We ended up with a number of about 50. The decision was made for our ninth through 12th grade students that we would toggle to online learning ahead of the Labor Day weekend.”
By doing the remote learning for the determined period of time, it essentially keeps all of the students separated in a form of “quarantine” to mitigate possible expansion of the virus.
“By definition, we do not have enough positive cases to be in an outbreak status,” Ferguson wrote. “However, out of an abundance of caution and to avoid further spread, Northpoint has made the difficult decision to shift all ninth-12th to remote learning through Friday, Sept. 11.”
Walton said the decision doesn’t include the pre-kindergarten through eighth graders because those students do not interact with the Upper School students during the school day and typically stay with their own classmates only.
“When you get into the upper grades, that’s when you get into students having lockers and changing classes,” Walton said. “Rather than having a single lead teacher, you have five, six, seven teachers. They also participate in extracurricular activities like sports or the performing arts and band.”
Walton said the process of moving to complete remote learning for the upper grades is an easy transition that doesn’t require extra layers of oversight to make happen.
“Our teachers are ready and we have the infrastructure in place, so we feel this toggle will be easy,’ Walton noted. “We are in control of our destiny and we can do what’s in the best interest of our people and we can do it quickly.”
Northpoint students are closely checked on a continual basis, starting the moment they arrive on campus.
“We have a checklist that we have given to parents, asking if the student has been experiencing a fever or a persistent cough,” Walton said. “We have about 7-8 things that ask parents to kind of run through on that list each day before they come through our drop off line. We have a fleet of people who check temperatures as they get in the door and as soon as students step out of their car and on to the curb, they are expected to have a mask on. As they transition from class to class, we have a ‘wash in, wash out’ policy. We’re doing everything within our power to make sure students are safe. We hope this brief time before and after the Labor Day holiday will help mitigate a traditional cold and flu season.”