At least 260 students and eight teachers from a suburban school district in Atlanta, Georgia, were quarantined after multiple students and teachers tested positive for Covid-19 during the first week of school.
In statements posted on its website, the Cherokee County School District reported positive cases in at least 11 students and two staff members. Students and staff who had possible exposure with a positive case have been told to quarantine for two weeks. The students were from the county’s elementary, middle and high schools.
Quarantined students will receive online instruction while they stay home, the district said.
The district returned to in-person learning on Monday, August 3. The district’s superintendent, Dr. Brian V. Hightower, sent a letter Friday to the school community regarding the issue.
“We have students and staff reporting presumptive, pending and positive COVID-19 tests every day, and this will continue as we operate schools during a pandemic,” he said. “We are working with the Department of Public Health to confirm, contact trace, quarantine and then notify the school community.”
He added that school officials are taking extra steps for transparency, including not only updating weekly current case totals, but also posting school notification letters and details about each case.
“We know we’re under a microscope, as national media follows the reopening of schools across the country,” Hightower wrote. “But know that our decisions are not based on what people in New York or Kansas think, nor are we concerned about “optics” or “image” – we’re focused on what’s doing best for our community.”
Cherokee County is located roughly 20 miles north of Atlanta and is home to 258,000 people.
Hightower thanked the school community for their support in helping to reopen schools in person and simultaneously launch a new Digital Learning program to start the school year on time.
Meanwhile, a Cherokee County second grader was possibly the first child to report being tested positive for Covid-19 after attending the first day of school, according to the district.
A student of Sixes Elementary , he began in-person classes on Monday. But by Tuesday, a classroom was temporarily closed for deep cleaning and the teacher and 20 other students had been asked to quarantine for two weeks after the second grader tested positive.
In his note, Hightower reminded students the importance of wearing masks
“We learned many wear masks routinely, but we must continue to remind all students of the importance of masks when you cannot social distance,” he said.
He wrote that the answer to keeping schools open rested with the entire school community and said parents need to continue to keep their children home when they are sick.
“We need to social distance whenever we can, and always wear masks when we cannot,” he wrote.
In Chatham County on Georgia’s coast, a 7-year-old boy died of Covid-19, becoming the youngest victim in the state, according to data compiled by the state health department. The boy had no underlying health conditions.
As schools have reopened for the new academic year around the country, parents and administrators are making difficult decisions about how to ensure students get the education they need while also staying safe in an ongoing pandemic.
While many have responded to the resurgence of cases with completely remote schooling, others have opted to return to classrooms, which the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said works if safety measures are the priority.