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Northside Christian briefly closes upper campus after two virus cases

Thirty-five students at the school were quarantined after two siblings tested positive.

ST. PETERSBURG — Northside Christian School closed its upper campus for a day on Thursday so the school could be sanitized after two confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Only grades 7 through 12 were affected, with on-line classes cancelled for the day as well. School will resume on Friday.

Public schools have struggled with the question of whether they can close after a COVID-19 case, with many following state directives to adopt what is called a “surgical” approach.

There is more latitude, however, in private and charter schools. The action taken at Northside, which has a total enrollment of 720 students, follows the brief closing last week of Pinecrest Academy of Wesley Chapel. Pinecrest reopened to students on Tuesday.

At Northside, the school took action after two students, who are siblings, received positive diagnoses over the course of two days, according to Tessa Madasz, the school’s director. Administrators said they have no reason to believe the students became ill at the school.

After contact tracing, 35 other students who had been in close proximity to the two were told to self-isolate for 14 days and keep up with their studies.

“They will be in contact with their teachers on a regular basis,” the school wrote in a note to families. The note also said the school would work with any students who had casual contact with those infected “if they prefer to stay at home and learn independently for the next two weeks.”

As the school cafe is closed, elementary students were not in any high-risk area, the letter said, adding, “our hope is that this is an isolated incident.”

Madasz said families seemed to respect the school for its action. “If you look at our nation, we have people split on the issue,” she said. “But overall, our parents are very supportive. They would much rather we err on side of caution."

Since local schools began to reopen on Aug. 24, the Tampa Bay Times has tracked 172 cases among students and school employees. These include 55 in Pinellas’ public and private schools.

To date, the Times does not know of any local public school that has closed.