Kimberly Howe

Kimberly Howe discusses the school system’s capital improvement projects.

More than three dozen students and 10 employees of St. Mary’s public schools were diagnosed with COVID-19 during the first week or so of school, according to the school system’s superintendent.

Superintendent Scott Smith discussed that information and other COVID-19 data during the school board’s Sept. 8 meeting.

Smith noted that St. Mary’s County was still in the high — or red — category for COVID-19 cases as designated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 364 new cases as of Aug. 29, he said, noting that was down slightly from the previous week’s 370.

One in four of those who tested positive were fully vaccinated, he said.

Of the 38 students who tested positive for the coronavirus, 10 or 11 were Chopticon High School athletes who attended a carnival together [outside] and were not wearing masks, Smith said. These students had mild to moderate symptoms and many were fully vaccinated, he said.

Regardless, Smith said the numbers show the effectiveness of wearing masks, noting the school system has almost 18,000 students and 2,000 employees.

Board member Cathy Allen said she was helping a family member out of state during the board’s last meeting on Aug. 25, when about 200 people rallied outside against the school system’s mask mandate and 23 spoke during public comment against the policy.

“I was distressed to hear some of the comments,” Allen said. “As a former [intensive care unit] nurse, I know masks work correctly. ... You have to wear it correctly.” Allen said she wore a mask on her nursing job and never got sick.

Smith noted that the school system was at about 93% in average daily attendance. “It will go up,” he said. With all the school system has been through due to COVID-19, Smith said, “93% — I’ll take it.”

He said that the system’s three high schools have about 200 more students than were projected.

Kimberly Howe, the school system’s capital improvement director, noted that the two capital improvement projects slated for this year include renovation of the heating, ventilation and cooling system at Town Creek Elementary in Lexington Park and a limited renovation of Lettie Marshall Dent Elementary in Mechanicsville.

The board approved a design award for Alban Engineering for the Town Creek HVAC project at a cost of $284,000 and a contingency of $30,000.

Also, the board approved W.M. Davis as the general contractor for replacement of windows and exterior doors at Town Creek Elementary at a cost of $806,425 and a contingency of $50,000.

Douron Inc. was chosen as the contractor to provide a modular system classroom and office furnishings at the school system’s new virtual academy.

According to a board document, a need exists to reconfigure classroom space for the virtual program in Lexington Park, which was previously part of Fairlead Academy I. This includes expanding staff workspace in open areas while having minimum disturbance to the existing school building.

The board also approved an award of $280,000 to Scheibel Construction with a contingency of $33,000 for renovation of a state-owned modular building at Leonardtown High School.

The St. Mary’s school board will next meet on Sept. 22.

Twitter: @CalebSoMdNews

Twitter: @CalebSoMdNews