Some schools in Georgia have opened for in-person classes, but reopening has come with the reality of the difficulty of social distancing and the impact a single positive COVID-19 case can have on the rest of the school, CBS News reported.
Pictures circulated online of students packed in hallways, with few of them wearing masks, and showing students getting together in groups for first day of school pictures. Educators are optimistic or hopeful that students and teachers will be safe, but theories about how the virus may spread in school environments will be put to the test.
Cherokee Independent School District Superintendent Brian Hightower on Friday sent a stern message to school teachers and staff, implying they may need to seek employment elsewhere if they didn't like the plan to reopen — although he pulled back on that some after criticism. From CBS News:
"For those of you who are unhappy with various facets of our reopening plan, I ask you to reflect on the best direction for you in your role with CCSD," Hightower wrote.
On Saturday, Hightower wrote another email saying he heard from "several" employees and he "should have done a much better job of sharing my appreciation for both your efforts and concerns as it relates to our school reopening."
Statistically children have been shown to be at an extremely low risk of serious illness when infected with COVID-19. However, the highly contagious nature of the virus means that even a minor or asymptomatic case can shut down entire classes for weeks.
Sixes Elementary School in Cherokee County had one second-grade student test positive for COVID-19, which required the entire class of 20 students, and the teacher, to quarantine at home for two weeks, during which time the students will engage in online instruction.
For the parents of those students who are forced to be home for two weeks regardless of whether they're sick, the quarantine could be highly disruptive to work schedules, creating an environment where the stakes are high in terms of the effort to keep classes infection-free. But, as one administrator told CBS, even mandating masks can be impractical or impossible.
"Wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them," Paulding County Superintendent Brian Ottot said.