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Prince William County schools confirms COVID-19 cases among staff before school year begins

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The new school year won’t officially begin until tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 8. But already, some Prince William County schools’ staff have reported positive cases of COVID-19, a school division spokeswoman confirmed Sunday.

Belmont Elementary School Principal Karen Giacometti emailed staff on Friday, Sept. 4, to inform them that a staff member at the Woodbridge school had tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member last reported to school on Sept. 1, and the “employee’s area is being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected,” Giacometti said in her email.

The Belmont Elementary School staff member is among “less than 10” employees across the school division who have reported positive cases of COVID-19 since teachers and staff returned to work to prepare for the new school year on Monday, Aug. 17, according to Prince William County schools' spokeswoman Diana Gulotta.

News of the positive case at Belmont Elementary is not expected to alter plans for the first day of school. Belmont Elementary will have both students and staff in the building on the first day, Gulotta said.

Although the vast majority of the school division’s 91,000 students and 6,000 teachers will begin the year with virtual instruction, about 1,200 special education students and those learning English have been invited to return to school in person.

“The staff member with the COVID-19 virus will not be in attendance and will quarantine as directed,” Gulotta said of the Belmont Elementary School employee. “Since August 17, we have had less than 10 positive cases division-wide of staff members who have been in a building.”

When COVID-19 cases are reported among Prince William County students and staff, the school division notifies any employees deemed to be “close contacts” of the affected person, defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of them for more than 15 minutes, as well as the entire staff in the affected building, Gulotta said.

“In these most recent situations, students have not been in buildings, so we have limited our communication to staff,” Gulotta said. “However, as students return, communication will be expanded to include the students or the school community impacted when needed, which is consistent with the procedures followed last spring.”

Gulotta did not initially say which other schools or school division buildings have so far been affected by COVID-19 cases. Also not disclosed was whether the staff members with positive cases are teachers or employed in some other capacity.

An email seeking answers to those questions was not immediately answered Monday morning. 

This is a developing news story. Stay with Prince William Times for updates.

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