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Merritt Island private school closes after 8 test positive for COVID-19

Students will move to online learning

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MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. – Merritt Island Christian School has been closed for two weeks after eight people tested positive for COVID-19.

Four teachers, a staff member and three students tested positive for the virus last week, Superintendent Nanci Dettra said, prompting the private school’s coronavirus task force to recommend closing campus to students until Oct. 6.

That number has since doubled as more students and staff get tested, Dettra said Tuesday.

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“That was real alarming to us,” she told News 6 partner FLORIDA TODAY. “We’re sorry we had to make that decision (to close), but we’re glad we did because it was the wise thing to for the safety of our families ... and for our faculty and staff, too.”

Dettra said it was “hard to say” if the cases were connected, but noted it was possible.

“I would think maybe,” she said. “The problem is, because we’re small, we’ve all had close contact with each other.”

Merritt Island Christian enrolls about 270 students, Dettra said. The school began its academic year Aug. 17.

Faculty and students have all transitioned to virtual learning until campus reopens, and athletic events and practices have been rescheduled or postponed until students return.

Dettra said a facilities and maintenance crew was in the process of disinfecting the school — “all offices, all classrooms, all hallways, all banisters, everything,” she said — and she was in close contact with the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County.

“We’re seeking guidance from them on what direction they would like us to go, if we can open up on that date we projected,” she said. “We definitely want to be safe.”

Teachers are slated to report to campus Oct. 5, with students scheduled to return Oct. 6.

“I just hate we had to make this decision but it certainly was for the betterment and safety of the school population,” Dettra said.

The school’s reopening blueprint, posted to its website, includes daily temperature checks; social distancing (where possible) in classrooms, hallways and in the lunchroom and chapel; mandatory masks for secondary students between class periods; hallway traffic patterns; staggered student pick-ups; and frequent disinfecting of school surfaces.

Merritt Island Christian students are not required to wear masks in the classroom. According to the blueprint, all students either enter through or congregate with social distancing before classes in the school’s atrium, which also hosts students during lunch and high school breaks.