Three of Cherokee County’s six public high schools have now been closed because of outbreaks of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Officials announced the closure Creekview High School on Sunday because of 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a statement from Cherokee County School District Superintendent Brian V. Hightower. The action followed the closures of Etowah High on Tuesday of last week and Woodstock High the next day.

“We understand these closings create hardships and are disappointing to students who want to learn in-person as well as their families, but these are necessary measures to avoid potential spread within our schools,” CCSD officials said in a written statement.

Cherokee, River Ridge and Sequoyah high schools remain open. According to a school system report, Cherokee High has recorded 16 cases of COVID-19. River Ridge has had only one case of the disease, while Sequoyah has three cases.

Etowah High teachers began online instruction for their students on Thursday, Hightower said. For Woodstock High online instruction began Friday. At Creekview, online instruction will begin on Tuesday. All three high schools are tentatively scheduled to reopen on Aug. 31.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, families served by Cherokee County School District were given the choice before school started Aug. 3 to send their children to schools for in-person instruction, or start the year online. Almost a quarter of students were signed up for the online option. The system serves more than 42,000 students total.

Cherokee County schools and other systems across the state closed campuses and instituted online learning in March in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which as of Sunday night had resulted in the deaths of more than 170,000 people in the U.S., 4,702 in Georgia and 67 in Cherokee County. According to the state Department of Public Health, Cherokee County has seen 1,075 new cases of COVID-19 over the past two weeks.

In-person school was the overwhelmingly popular choice among Cherokee County parents surveyed after the conclusion of last school year and officials in July approved a plan to reopen school campuses with procedures designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus in place.

The system’s response plan for COVID-19 includes options to close individual classrooms, whole wings of schools, entire schools and the entire system if needed. Hightower said he remains hopeful in-person instruction can continue, but stressed that following precautions will be the key.

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Managing Editor

Gary Tanner is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune, Cherokee Ledger-News and Cherokee Life magazine. He has been working as a journalist since 1985.

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