All Saints Catholic School student

All Saints Catholic School students wore face masks and were separated into smaller cohorts as part of the Manassas private school's "extensive mitigation protocols" aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Principal David Conroy said Friday, Jan. 1.

All Saints Catholic School in Manassas switched to all-virtual instruction Dec. 10 and won’t return to in-person classes until at least Monday, Jan. 11, as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in two teachers and three students testing positive for the novel coronavirus, a school official said late Friday.

The outbreak at All Saints began on Wednesday, Dec. 9, when a fifth-grade teacher was suspected to have been infected with the virus and “a few students showed symptoms,” All Saints Catholic School Principal David E. Conroy Jr. wrote in a Jan. 1 email.

“In an abundance of caution,” the Manassas private school, which has an enrollment of 402 students in kindergarten through eighth grades,  first transitioned its fifth-grade to virtual instruction Dec. 9. The entire school went virtual the next day “to mitigate spread," after the school confirmed the first two positive cases, Conroy said.

“Ultimately, there were five cases of COVID in the 5th grade, two teachers and three students,” Conroy wrote. “No cases in the school have resulted in hospitalizations. That said, we take each and every case very seriously and have been in regular contact with Prince William County health officials.”

All Saints Catholic School, at 2924 Stonewall Road, is affiliated with All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas. The private school is one of the first two kindergarten through 12th grade schools in the Prince William Health District to report outbreaks for COVID-19 that meet the state’s strict definition: at least two laboratory-confirmed cases stemming from the same setting among unrelated people.

The other school, Evangel Christian School, 14836 Ashdale Ave. in Dale City, had 16 cases related to an outbreak that the Virginia Department of Health reported to have occurred on Dec. 22.

That date is unlikely to match the date cases first occurred due to reporting delays. Evangel Christian School has not yet responded to an email or Facebook message seeking more information.

All Saints Catholic School re-opened in the early fall with “extensive COVID mitigation protocols” in place, Conroy said in his email.

“The administration, parents and students have been vigilant in carrying out extensive COVID mitigation protocols, including at-home [health] assessments and on-site procedures,” Conroy wrote.

“At the school, the temperature of students is taken immediately upon arrival each morning, all students must wear face masks and wash hands frequently, and social distancing must be adhered to in the classrooms and common areas such as hallways,” he added. “These protocols remain central to our daily operations, particularly as the percent-positivity rate continues to rise in surrounding communities.”

Prince William County’s percent-positivity rate on COVID-19 tests – a measure of “community spread” of the virus – topped 20% on Saturday, Jan. 2, and has been rising since mid-October.

All Saints Catholic School has offered students in kindergarten through second grades in-person instruction four days a week, while students in the third through eighth grades attended school via a “hybrid model,” according to the school division’s website. 

In the third through eighth grades, students have been separated into two cohorts with each attending school on alternate days, either Tuesdays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Fridays, according to the school’s website.

When the positive cases surfaced in the fifth-grade classroom, “parents were immediately notified to ensure effective contact-tracing and full awareness of the community,” Conroy’s email said. “The administration and parents have worked closely with local health officials to mitigate further spread.”

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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