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Major COVID-19 outbreaks have prompted some school districts in the South to close schools shortly after restarting classes for the fall.
In Georgia, school officials in Ware County shut down all 11 of its public schools on Friday after a “sharp increase” in cases during the first week of school, according to News4Jax. The school system will stop daily operations through Aug. 27, and students will return to school on Sept. 7.
“Initially, we thought we were going to have a normal start,” Bert Smith, superintendent of Ware County Schools, told the news outlet.
Classes won’t take place during the pause, Smith said, largely due to staffing shortages as people get sick. But in-season extracurricular practices and competitions will continue as scheduled.
“Our teachers are having to cover classes, and they have to teach their face-to-face students and address the kids in quarantine,” Smith said. “There’s not enough time in the day.”
On Friday, the district reported 76 COVID-19 cases among students and 679 students in quarantine out of 5,900 total students. The district also reported 67 COVID-19 cases among school employees and 150 people under quarantine out of 950 total employees.
“Our nursing clinics are overwhelmed with kids having to quarantine,” Smith said. “Right now, every day is a challenge.”
Also on Friday, the Pickens County School District in South Carolina decided to return to virtual classes after 9 days of in-class learning, according to the Greenville News. School officials made the decision at an emergency meeting after four staff members and a student were hospitalized.
The district reported 163 COVID-19 cases among students, surpassing the peak of 85 COVID-19 cases in January, and 26 COVID-19 cases among employees. More than 600 students and 30 employees are in quarantine.
“We don’t know if it’s safe to continue as is,” Darian Byrd, a spokesman for the district, said during the meeting. He warned that other districts in South Carolina should pay attention.
The district will hold remote classes this week, the news outlet reported, and students will receive an update by Thursday about any future plans.
“We have learned in the first 9 days that we are dealing with a very different challenge than last year,” the district wrote in a statement. “Currently, in our state and county, the coronavirus Delta variant is spreading rampantly.”
News4Jax: “Ware County closes all 11 schools after ‘sharp increase’ in COVID-19 cases.”
Greenville News: “Pickens schools going to temporary virtual classes after increase in COVID cases.”
School District of Pickens County: “Temporary Virtual Learning (Remote Learning) Beginning Monday, 8/16, 2021.”
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