Four Cherokee County schools have now been closed because of increased COVID-19 cases.

River Ridge, Sequoyah and Woodstock high schools are closed because of increased COVID-19 cases, Cherokee County schools officials announced on Saturday. On Sunday, Arnold Mill Elementary School was added to the list.

“The number of COVID-19 cases across the country and our community continues to rise, and the surge is leading to higher case and quarantine rates among our students and staff and affecting our ability to keep schools open,” Chief Communications Officer Barbara Jacoby said in statements on the school system website. “We understand these closings create hardships and are disappointing to students and their families, but these are necessary measures to avoid potential spread within our schools.”

Beginning Monday the students at the three schools will switch to online, at-home study. The schools are slated to reopen after the upcoming Christmas/New Year’s break on Jan. 6.

At Thursday’s board of education meeting, Superintendent Brian V. Hightower told board members that River Ridge was near the level of quarantined students and staff that led to a temporary closure in November. Next week is the last week of school before the holiday break and the high school students will complete their first semester final exams Tuesday through Friday, as scheduled, though online.

“Teachers and staff will report to campus next week and will be available online during regular school hours,” Jacoby said. “The building will be thoroughly sanitized over this weekend in advance of staff returning. The closure has no effect on students already enrolled in Digital Learning.”

According to school system officials, as of Sunday:

♦ At Arnold Mill Elementary School, “COVID-19 cases among students and staff has increased to a total of eight, with 156 of its 603 in-person students and 15 members of staff now under precautionary quarantine;

♦ At River Ridge, “COVID-19 cases among students and staff has increased to a total of 29, with 285 of its 1,471 in-person students now under precautionary quarantine”;

♦ At Sequoyah, “COVID-19 cases among students and staff has increased to a total of 23, with 365 of its 1,708 in-person students now under precautionary quarantine”; and,

♦ At Woodstock, “COVID-19 cases among students and staff has increased to a total of 27, with 476 of its 1,555 in-person students now under precautionary quarantine.”

Students can pick up bags with school meals for the week on Monday beginning at 9 a.m. at their respective schools, officials said.

The Cherokee County school system has had several temporary closures this year because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forcing the quarantine of large numbers of students and staff. The first took place in August at Etowah, River Ridge and Woodstock and in-person learning resumed on a temporary modified schedule — with a combination of in-person and online instruction — before resuming full in-person instruction. River Ridge also had a temporary closure last month.

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