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250 students and staff quarantined in Georgia school district after one week of school

After only one week of school, more than 250 students and teachers from one Georgia school district will be quarantined for two weeks after several teachers and students tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district's website.

Cherokee County School District, which is just north of Atlanta, is sharing regular updates on coronavirus cases in its schools on its website.

As of Friday, at least 11 students, ranging in age from first to 12th grade, and two staff members from various elementary, middle and high schools, have tested positive for the virus, prompting the school to send almost 250 students and staff home for 14 days due to possible exposure. The students will receive online instruction during the period.

The district has 40 schools and centers, 4,800 employees and more than 42,200 students.

Back to school and COVID-19: Everything to know as students head back to class

In a letter to families on Friday, Superintendent Brian Hightower said that the trend of students and staff testing positive every day "will continue as we operate schools during a pandemic." 

"We know we're under a microscope, as national media follows the reopening of schools across the country," he wrote. "But know that our decisions are not based on what people in New York or Kansas think, nor are we concerned about 'optics' or 'image' – we're focused on what's doing best for our community."

He also stressed the need for taking extra measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

"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," Hightower said. "This is a critical component to keeping schools open."

Cherokee County had drawn attention earlier this week after dozens of seniors were seen gathering at two of the district's high schools to take traditional first-day-of-school photos, with students squeezing together with none of them wearing masks. 

More: New York schools OK'd for in-person classes. Here's where nation's big districts stand on reopening.

In a related incident in Dallas, Georgia, North Paulding High School dropped its five-day suspension for at least one student who posted a photo of crowded hallways showing students without face masks.

Hannah Watters, 15, tweeted Friday that she was no longer suspended and told the Associated Press that her principal called her mother, apologized, and completely removed her punishment, leaving her surprised and “very grateful.” 

The 30,000-student Paulding County School District resumed classes Monday with 70% of students returning for in-person instruction five days a week. Last week, multiple football players at North Paulding tested positive for the coronavirus.

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