CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga - A spike in the number of COVID-19 cases at Etowah High School in Cherokee County has temporarily halted in-person learning. Fourteen positive cases and 15 pending was enough for school officials to send the students to digital learning.
"I think it's the safe option to close down," said Jack McDaniel who graduated from Etowah High School last year.
In a memo, Superintendent Dr. Brian Hightower said "294 students and staff at Etowah High Scool are under quarantine, and should the pending tests prove positive, that total would increase dramatically."
The school will be closed for a deep cleaning Wednesday. Teachers will go back to the classroom Thursday to teach the students virtually. All students will learn virtually until August 31.
"I definitely feel sad because our friends are seniors and they're getting their senior year cut short, but it is important that everyone is safe and healthy," said Rachel Hugenberg who graduated from Etowah High School.
The decision to halt face-to-face learning at Etowah came just hours after a group of parents rallied outside the school district headquarters to show their support for school leaders who gave families a choice between in-person or virtual learning.
“It is less risky to open schools than to leave schools closed," said Jenny Beth Martin who was at the rally.
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Christina Tilton has a daughter in another Cherokee high school who chose face to face learning. Tilton said the news of Etowah High School going all virtual until the end of the month is concerning, but Tilton said she's going to let her daughter stay in school.
"We're a little worried, we don't want her to contract the virus, but it's her choice and we decided to let her do it," said Tilton.
According to the Cherokee County School District in the first seven days of classes, there were 59 positive COVID-19 tests among students and staff in Cherokee County Schools, more than 900 students and staff are in quarantine.