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The volleyball team at Dade County (Georgia) Middle School and the cheerleaders at Dade County High School are all in quarantine after a student on each team tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

Superintendent Jan Harris told the Times Free Press the test results came back before the first day of school, which was Thursday. The two students who tested positive include an 8th grader at Dade Middle and a sophomore at Dade County High.

Harris couldn't specify when the two students contracted the virus or how many people were potentially exposed.

Along with the two students, five teachers and paraprofessionals had tested positive in the district before school started Thursday. All those employees have been quarantined as well, Harris said.

All other fall sports in the district have continued on as usual, albeit with strict health guidelines put in place with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state's public health department.

Because of the positive cases, Harris said a good number of parents have reached out to the district to enroll their kids in virtual learning. Harris said initially the district had about 14% of students sign up for the virtual program. That number now is closer to 19%.

"That number has started to gradually go up," she said. "We tried to have a deadline for parents to sign up for the virtual program but now we're focused on meeting the needs of all our parents."

If a student or staff member tests positive in Dade County Schools, the district requires them to quarantine at home for a minimum of 10 days and they then must experience 24 hours without symptoms.

Masks in schools are not specifically required, but a video posted on Dade County High School's Facebook page offers more details on how the school will handle masks.

Masks are required on school buses and in hallways during class changes. However, if a student refuses to wear a mask, they will be released from class when the hallway clears out. Teachers will wear a mask or face shield when working directly with students and other staff members.

Keeping the coronavirus out of schools has proven difficult in Northwest Georgia and elsewhere across the state.

Chattooga County Schools was one of the first districts in the nation to reopen amid the pandemic. After less than two weeks of school, seven students tested positive for COVID-19. The district has not implemented a face mask requirement but is strongly encouraging people to wear them.

In Walker County — where two employees have tested positive — teachers are speaking out against the district's reopening plan, which does not include a face mask requirement and will have students going to school five days a week in a traditional setting. Students in Walker County also started school Thursday.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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