A member of Heritage High School's marching band in Catoosa County has tested positive for COVID-19.
Heritage High Principal Ronnie Bradford sent a message to marching band parents Aug. 5 notifying them that a member of the band had tested positive but practice would continue after it was determined the student had no immediate contact with other members of the band.
Bradford said the student was tested on July 31 after experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus.
Portions of the marching band have been practicing outdoors under COVID-19 protocols since June 8. All band members have had their temperatures checked before every practice and earlier this summer, the indoor storage space for instruments was closed.
Now, some of those early protocols have fallen by the wayside and Bradford said it is his intention to make sure the students are being more careful when gathering in the storage room and after practice finishes.
"They do a great job of spreading out in areas when they're practicing outdoors, but we've seen them bottleneck when they're walking out of the door, and that's our biggest frustration," Bradford said. "Dismissal is the worst time."
Bradford said proper contact tracing was done after the test came back positive, and the local health department found the student wasn't in direct contact with anyone else during practice.
School starts in Catoosa County on Aug. 24.
Elementary school students will attend school five days a week but pre-K students, middle and high schoolers will start on a hybrid schedule and will attend school Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays.
Masks at Heritage High will be required in hallways and certain classrooms, Bradford said. However, he has noticed that most people who have been attending the early fall softball games have not been wearing masks.
"Masks are recommended at ball games," he said. "But when kids have come to the school with their parents to pick up things they need for the start of school, everyone has been wearing masks, and that's been great to see."
Of the 10,400 students in the district, 2,587 have signed up for virtual learning. Superintended Deina Reese said fewer secondary students than expected enrolled in digital learning, which will make social distancing "impossible."
That was one of the reasons the district decided to start with the hybrid method. In all the schools, masks are required on buses, entrances, hallways and other areas where social distancing is not possible.
Contact Patrick Filbin at email@example.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.