The second week of in-person school in Cherokee County began with more than 20 positive COVID-19 cases, along with accompanying quarantines of 475 staff and students, spread across 15 campuses, according to officials.
Cherokee County School District officials have sent out 19 notifications to parents since school started on Aug. 4 regarding positive tests and required two-week quarantines for those students and staff exposed to those who tested positive. None of the cases have caused the closure of more than individual classrooms.
“We will continue to closely monitor the state of public health in our community and our schools, the number of quarantines, and the sustainability of staffing in determining the future of in-person schools,” Superintendent Brian V. Hightower said in a message posted Friday on the system’s website. “Should we have to close all schools, which we have no plans to do at this time, we will shift to online learning for all students not already enrolled in Digital Learning.”
Families were given the choice before school started 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 Monday had resulted in the deaths of 160,000 people in the U.S., 4,199 in Georgia and 63 in Cherokee County.
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.
In a message posted Friday on the system website, Hightower addressed keeping campuses open during the ongoing pandemic.
“How long can we keep schools open? The answer will depend on all of us as a community,” Hightower wrote. “We need to social distance whenever we can, and always wear masks when we cannot. 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. This is a critical component to keeping schools open.”