Sixes Elementary School in Canton welcomed kids back to class, in-person, after the summer break on Monday. In posts on the school’s Facebook page which have since been deleted, photos showed children crammed into classrooms, some wearing masks, many not. There was little to no social distancing taking place.
Barbara P. Jacoby, chief communications officer for the Cherokee County School District, previously told local media that the children would not be required to wear masks, though the face coverings were “encouraged.”
“Masks are not mandated for students – they are strongly encouraged and recommended. [This] has been repeatedly communicated to[parents] since the reopening plan was announced July 8.”
By Monday evening, according to WAGA-TV, one of the kids was experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and was deemed to have contracted the novel coronavirus. The child was not believed to have shown symptoms while in class.
According to CNN, the classroom was closed for deep cleaning on Tuesday. The 20 students and the teacher who shared the classroom with the infected student will have to quarantine at home for the next two weeks and participate in classes via remote learning. Jacoby said that the teacher is currently symptom-free.
In a letter sent home to caregivers, Principal Ashley Kennerly encouraged the parents of the quarantined kids to monitor their temperatures daily and watch for signs of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.
“We continue to encourage all parents to temperature scan and monitor students closely for any sign of potential illness. Students should remain at home if they are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, new or persistent cough, headache, loss of taste or smell, fatigue and/or stomach issues (diarrhea). We appreciate your continued support!” the letter read in part.
Nine staff members at other schools in the district have tested positive for the virus. Cases are popping up among adults at other Georgia schools as well, including five positives and one suspected positive in Marietta City and as many as 260 in Gwinnett County.
As summer gives way to fall and the 2020-2021 school seasons looms, the matter of putting children back into the classroom during a pandemic has spurred intense debate. President Donald Trump has strongly advocated for reopening schools for full-time, in-person instruction, and has even threatened to withhold federal funds from districts that don’t fully reopen.