A Georgia county high school has turned into the county’s hot zone after sending students back to school against the recommendation of the CDC.
One week after the hallways of the Paulding County high school went viral when a student took and uploaded a picture of the crowded area that featured many students without masks, weeks after the country debated on whether students should physically return to school or continue online learning.
As previously reported, after the viral photo made headlines, the student who posted it-identified only as Hannah-was suspended after school officials claimed that the image was snapped to “criticize” their decision to physically reopen despite public warnings. The high school will now resort back to being online after six students and three faculty members tested positive for COVID-19.
The district said it needs time to disinfect the North Paulding High School building and look for other potentially infected individuals.
“On Monday and Tuesday, the school will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and the district will consult with the Department of Public Health to assess the environment and determine if there (are) any additional close contacts for confirmed cases who have not already been identified,” Paulding Superintendent Brian Otott wrote in a letter to parents Sunday.
While many weren’t surprised at the outcome, many pointed out the irony of the issue after the school district suspended two students, including one who publicly acknowledged posting one of the photos. The punishment led to a national outcry from critics who said school leaders were trying to silence the students. After the pushback, the district relented and lifted the suspensions on Friday.
Superintendent Otott said parents will be notified Tuesday evening about whether North Paulding High School will reopen Wednesday, before noting that the school will be disinfected Monday and Tuesday while students are out of the building.
“I apologize for any inconvenience this schedule change may cause, but hopefully we all can agree that the health and safety of our students and staff take precedence over any other considerations at this time,” he wrote.
According to the Atlanta Journal Consitution, concerns about Paulding’s safety planning led one school nurse to resign from the district last month.
Amy Westmoreland told the AJC on Sunday that she left her job as the school nurse at W.C. Abney Elementary School because she felt the policies — including the absence of a mask mandate — put her at risk of catching the virus and spreading it to children.
“I would never be able to live with myself if I infected somebody,” Westmoreland said. “It didn’t seem safe at all.”
Westmoreland added that she was concerned that remaining on the job would put her nursing license at risk, in part because the district was not providing nurses with the typical personal protective equipment for COVID-19 used by hospitals, such as N95 masks.
“This is basic respiratory hygiene, so I would not be in compliance with what I’m supposed to be doing as a nurse,” Westmoreland added.
Administrators will inform students and parents Tuesday evening whether they will return to in-person instruction or continue with online learning.