We know that you need accurate and up-to-date information about the effects of the coronavirus in the state and our region. The Forsyth County News is making this article available free to non-subscribers as a public service. Go here to view our full coverage of the novel coronavirus and its impact on Forsyth County or sign up for our breaking news alerts to get timely updates and special reports. Please consider supporting our work by subscribing to the Forsyth County News.
More than 600 Forsyth County Schools students and staff were quarantined because of direct exposure to someone with COVID-19 during the first full week of school.
According to data released by the school district, 1.6% of the 38,947 students learning in person full- or part-time and staff have been ordered to stay home for at least two weeks following the exposure; that amounts to about 623 individuals.
A total of 30 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21, the first full week of school after the district reopened with both in-person and virtual instruction options on Aug. 13.
“We are extremely pleased to have so many students and staff practicing safe and healthy behaviors while in our school buildings,” said Jennifer Caracciolo, director of communications with Forsyth County Schools. “By doing our individual part, we are keeping not only ourselves safe but also those around us.”
Forsyth County Schools is ordering individuals who have been less than six feet apart from someone with the coronavirus at school for at least 15 consecutive minutes to stay home and transition to virtual learning for 14 days starting from the date of exposure. Students will use itslearning, the school district’s online learning platform, while home.
School leaders have previously said that it will follow guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health on whether or not to close schools when a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. That could lead to any number of scenarios, from single classes or hallways closing to the entire school district.
Forsyth County Schools was one of the few school districts in metro Atlanta to offer in-person instruction to start the year. Most of the area’s largest districts switched to online learning as Georgia saw a surge in the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus in July.
Forsyth County Schools pushed forward with its plan to reopen campuses on Aug. 13 and offer families the option to learn virtually. Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden reported at the Aug. 18 meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Education that nearly one-third of the district’s 50,523 students (16,650) had enrolled in full-time virtual instruction, though overall enrollment was expected to increase with some student registrations still pending. (You can see the virtual enrollment figures for grades K-5 here and 6-12 here).
The rest returned to face-to-face learning on campuses with a host of new safety measures to promote social distancing “where feasible” and curb the spread of the virus in the school district’s Restart Forsyth reopening plan, but officials said that keeping students six feet apart at all times in classrooms and on school buses would be impossible.
The school district is also “expecting” but not mandating that students and staff wear face masks on campus, though some employees, like bus drivers, are required to wear a face covering.
Two days into the school year, the school district called on families to take greater caution after three students who had COVID-19 symptoms or pending test results came to campus.
Forsyth County Schools is publishing reported cases by school on its website, forsyth.k12.ga.us/restartforsyth. Reports are updated weekdays at 6 p.m.
CORRECTION (Aug. 25, 2020, 6:24 p.m.): A previous version of this article used incomplete data. The number of quarantined individuals is 1.6% out of 38,947 students and staff on school campuses. We regret the error.