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COVID-19 cases, failing grades spike in Gaston County public and private schools

The percentage of children who've tested positive for the virus remains above 20%, which is quadruple what experts consider a safe level.

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — In Gaston County, both public and private schools continue to see several teachers, staff members and children testing positive for COVID-19.

For the first time, WCNC Charlotte is getting a look at just how many of the county's students and teachers have been affected by the virus.

The total number of COVID-19 cases among every teacher, staff member and student in Gaston County more than doubled after the Thanksgiving holiday and spiked even higher after Christmas.

The percentage of children who've tested positive for the virus remains above 20%, which is quadruple what experts consider a safe level.

RELATED: CMS parents continue fight for in-person learning amid mental health concerns for students

During the last school board meeting of 2020, in the middle of the spike, Gaston County Superintendent Doctor Jeffrey Booker said one number, in particular, stands out.

"We've got over 20 folks that have been in the hospital, we have a person that's in rehabilitation right now," said Dr. Jeffrey Booker the Gaston Co. Superintendent. "That weighs very heavy on me as an individual, I just have to be honest."

A number that's also weighing heavily on parents and students isn't a COVID-19 metric, but it is a direct result of the virus.

The percentage of students with failing grades has doubled compared to the year before.

"Our administrators have tried to work, tried to reach out and they've tried to put recovery plans in," Booker said. "We just completed exams, we'll see that work, but we're going to end up with more remediation as a result of this." 

Kevin Collier, a Gaston County Board of Education member, said he wanted students to be back in-person four days a week as soon as possible.

"Our children have fallen behind," Collier said during the December meeting. 

"This remote learning especially elementary has taken a toll on our children's education."

Board member Dot Guthrie disagreed with having students return to class

"We need to think about what we have said when we talk about pushing right back into school," Guthrie said. "I think we ought to give it a couple of weeks more."

Gaston County confirmed one person, who worked at a private school, died as a result of COVID-19.

The county health department recorded 750 pediatric COVID-19 cases for the month of December and 545 cases for January, as of last Friday.

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