Georgia middle school closes because of COVID-19 exposures

In-person classes been called off for two weeks at a Georgia middle school after more than 90 students and staff were exposed to the coronavirus.

The Monroe County school system said Thursday in a news release that all students at Monroe County Middle School in Forsyth would shift to online instruction starting Monday. Learning will remain entirely online through Oct. 9, when the district starts its fall break. In-person classes would resume Oct. 19.

Cases statewide continue to fall, with the seven-day average of newly confirmed cases at their lowest point since late June, as well as the number of people hospitalized with the respiratory illness. Georgia has reported more than 311,000 cases overall. Newly reported deaths remain high, with confirmed deaths reaching a total of 6,822 Thursday.

Although the total number of cases among school-aged children is declining in Georgia, according to figures from the state Department of Public Health, 32 virus clusters were detected at schools and colleges last week.

Monroe County Superintendent Mike Hickman said in a news release that seven students and one teacher have tested positive for COVID-19 recently, while 86 more students and staff are in quarantine, with some awaiting test results. Beyond concerns about spread of the virus, Hickman said, the district has so many teachers out that it is having difficulty staffing classrooms.

There are about 950 students at the school overall, part of the 4,200-student district between Atlanta and Macon.

The Dooly County school district, south of Macon, announced the football team at its sole high school would be quarantined for two weeks because of COVID-19 exposure. In south Georgia, Clinch County closed its high school through this Friday.