Georgia district to begin year online amid staff virus cases
WINDER, Ga. (AP) — More than 90 staff members in one Georgia school district have been quarantined due to coronavirus exposure or infection, prompting the district to plan to begin the year entirely online.
State officials on Thursday, meanwhile, reported that Georgia had passed 4,000 deaths from the coronavirus. The grim figure came a day after the state reported passing 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Barrow County Schools officials announced Wednesday that the district about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta would abandon plans to have both in-person classes and distance learning when the school year begins Aug. 17, and instead have all students attend classes virtually.
“We made a very difficult decision based on the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in our county, as well as the concerns over being able to appropriately staff our schools.” Superintendent Dr. Chris McMichael said in a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday night. “If today was the first day of school, we would have been hard-pressed to have sufficient staff available to open our schools.”
The district had 1,800 full- and part-time employees and 14,400 students during the 2019-2020 school year, according to its records.
McMichael said the district took “every precaution” and staff members were required to wear masks during preplanning before students returned to buildings. But dozens of employees were still infected or in quarantine due to a suspected case or direct contact with a confirmed case.
Officials said they were working to return students to classrooms “as quickly as possible” under a phased approach.
The district is the latest in Georgia to face complications as the new academic year begins. About 260 employees for Gwinnett County Public Schools, the state’s largest public school district, reported testing positive for the coronavirus or possibly being exposed to it ahead of the year’s start on Aug. 12, officials confirmed to news outlets this week.
In Cherokee and Paulding counties, where districts began in-person classes Monday with mask-optional policies, some questioned safety protocols after on-campus pictures showed students packed shoulder-to-shoulder, with few wearing masks.
The spelling of Paulding County has been corrected.