Heritage High School students in Catoosa County, Georgia, will participate in virtual instruction until at least Aug. 30 because of the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases.
Superintendent Denia Reese said the district will continue to monitor cases to determine whether virtual instruction needs to be extended beyond that date.
"To ensure that you know what is happening in your child's school, you will receive a nightly email reporting the number of positive cases during the day," Reese told parents on the district's website. "If additional mitigation strategies need to be implemented, you will be notified."
Changes to extracurricular schedules, she said, will be provided by Heritage Principal Ronnie Bradford to parents and students, along with instructions for how to participate in the school's virtual learning platform.
Reese said 44 students had tested positive at Heritage High School, which led to the district's decision to close the school. In general, she said school closures in Catoosa County Public Schools related to COVID-19 would be carried out on an individual basis based on what community spread looks like within each school.
"Based on the current percentage of positive cases in other schools in the district, there are no plans to transition other schools to digital learning," Reese said Friday.
Hybrid learning — an approach that places students in face-to-face classes on some days and working remotely from home on others — is also not being considered for any of the district's schools, including Heritage High School. Reese considers hybrid learning a more long-term approach to COVID-19 and wants to prioritize keeping students in in-person classes with instructors as long as it is safe and possible to do so.
"I monitor the spread of COVID in our community and in our schools daily. With an isolated increase like we saw at Heritage last week, I made a decision to temporarily transition this school to virtual learning as a short-term mitigation strategy," Reese said. "A hybrid learning model is a more long-term plan that I would consider if other mitigation strategies have not been effective to lower the spread."
Since Catoosa County Public Schools students returned to class Aug. 9, there have been 246 positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff across all schools, according to data from the district's weekly COVID-19 reports. Of those cases, 185 student cases and 28 staff cases were reported in the past week, from Aug. 13 to Aug. 19.
Other school districts across North Georgia have also been rushing to update and change policies this school year as the number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to steadily increase in the region.
Middle and high school students in nearby Dade County will be learning from home through Wednesday following reports that 70 students and staff members have entered quarantine since the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Dade County Schools also implemented a three-phase COVID-19 response plan that uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for community spread to determine what actions need to be taken to mitigate the negative effects of the virus.
Similarly, Dalton Public Schools in nearby Whitfield County implemented a COVID-19 response plan that made masks a requirement for students grades seven and under in times of moderate community spread except with parental opt-out.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.
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