More than 900 students and staff members have now been told to quarantine after a school district in northern Georgia reopened last week, school officials announced Tuesday. Dozens of positive COVID-19 tests have been confirmed and one high school has been temporarily shut down, Cherokee County School District Superintendent Dr. Brian V. Hightower said in a message posted online.
Since last week, there have been 59 positive tests among students and staff in the district, Hightower said. The spike in infections prompted the district to mandate a two-week quarantine for 925 students and staff members who may have been exposed.
Hightower said the district will close Etowah High School, with the aim of restarting in-person classes on August 31. That school has already had 14 positive tests and another 15 test results are pending.
“As a result of the confirmed cases, 294 students and staff are under quarantine and, should the pending tests prove positive, that total would increase dramatically,” Hightower said.
The district said once a positive case is confirmed, contact tracing is conducted and students’ parents are notified. It also said quarantined students will take online classes and classrooms will be deep-cleaned before reopening.
Cherokee County schools resumed in-person learning on August 3. Wearing a face mask is not a requirement for students, but Hightower had urged everyone to wear them.
“As we said before reopening, social distancing is not possible in all situations at our schools — this is why we require our staff to wear masks or face shields when they cannot distance, and this is why we’re providing masks to students and strongly recommending they wear them,” he said in an announcement Friday. “This is a critical component to keeping schools open.”
His message came as a high school in nearby Paulding County faced heavy scrutiny over viral photos that showed a packed hallway last week when it reopened. North Paulding High School had to shut down after several students and staff members tested positive for the virus.
Classes suspended amid Georgia COVID cluster
The reopening of schools in the U.S. has been met with fierce debate. Lawmakers, parents, teachers and students are divided on how to move forward as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge throughout many communities.