Cherokee County

Etowah High School to close until end of month due to COVID-19 outbreak

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — The Cherokee County School District announced Tuesday afternoon that Etowah High School will shut down until the end of the month due to an outbreak of coronavirus.

Nearly 300 students and staff members at Etowah High School are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19 after just the first week of school. School officials say there are 14 cases at the school with tests for another 15 students pending.

Photos showing Etowah High School students standing shoulder-to-shoulder with no masks on went viral last week.

[RELATED: Over 900 students, staff under quarantine in Cherokee County]

"294 students and staff are under quarantine and, should the pending tests prove positive, that total would increase dramatically," officials said in a statement on Facebook Tuesday.

All students will be off from school Wednesday and return to digital learning on Thursday. The district said they will deep clean the building and hope to have students back in school on Monday, August 31.

Extracurricular athletic activities will continue after school.

The message below is from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower: When we announced plans to reopen schools...

Posted by Cherokee County GA School District on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

"This exception is due to the very limited size of these groups and additional safety measures in place (such as temporal scans), but continuation of athletics will be closely monitored for possible closure," officials said.

School officials are urging students, staff and families at the other Cherokee County School District schools to continue to social distance and use masks.

“We need our entire community to help us keep our promise – we need you to stay home when you’re sick; get tested if you’re symptomatic; report your child’s positive test to our school; follow the quarantine and limit interaction with non-family members during this period; social distance when you can and wear a mask when you can’t,” Superintendent Brian Hightower wrote.

On Tuesday morning, parents in Cherokee County held a rally in support of the system’s reopening plan.

A big group of parents showed up to thank district leaders for giving them a choice to choose digital learning or in-person learning. The held signs and waved at district staff coming into work.

One sign read, “We support CCSD for opening our schools.”

Parents told Channel 2′s Kristen Holloway they wanted to thank teachers and cafeteria workers.

Heather Arnotti said that in-person learning for her 3rd and 4th-grader wasn’t an easy decision.

“My child personally needs the face-to-face,” Arnotti said. “He was extremely depressed for the past several months. The first day of school he walks out with a smile on his face I have not seen in months.”

Erin Ragsdale said she decided on in-person learning for her 11-year-old twins based on their current mental health state.

“I completed understand why parents wanted digital learning, honestly we considered that too,” Ragsdale said. " We had to determine what was the best for our children’s health and ultimately for our family, it was for them to go back to school.”

Parents said it was upsetting that some are judging them for choosing to send their kids back to the classroom.

“We’re not being lazy parents. I’m not a teacher,” one parent said. “What it would take a teacher to do would take me two hours to do between the fighting and crying trying to get the work done.”

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