ROME, Ga. - A surge in coronavirus quarantines is causing Rome City Schools to go completely virtual for at least two weeks starting Wednesday. Officials said they will clean affected areas meanwhile.
“RCS safety protocols, in partnership with the Department of Public Health for cleaning and sanitizing any affected areas, is in progress,” a statement on the school district’s Facebook page reads in part. “We will continue to follow the guidelines and recommendations from the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Department of Health, and the Center for Disease Control. The safety and security of our students, faculty and staff remains our number one priority.”
More than 600 students, faculty, and staff have either tested positive or possibly been exposed to someone with the coronavirus, prompting their quarantine, the school district announced Tuesday. All 6,400 students in the district will transition midweek to online instruction through at least Nov. 6, as long as the number of quarantines and cases have subsided by the end of the 10 days.
“Students will be issued a Chromebook. RCS is diligently working on distributing these devices to students and will be providing updates regarding internet access as soon as the information becomes available,” the statement reads in part.
Rome and surrounding Floyd County are among Georgia’s high transmission areas as infections and hospitalizations for COVID-19 rise for a third time.
Rome High School (FOX 5)
Despite the transition to online learning, athletics and extracurricular activities will continue.
“Rome City Schools has made the decision to close in-person learning primarily due to staffing issues associated with mandatory quarantines, and these staffing issues do not affect extracurricular activities,” the statement reads in part. “As long as a student has not been in direct contact with any person who has exhibited symptoms associated with COVID-19 or tested positive for COVID-19, they will be allowed to continue their participation in all extracurricular activities.”
Students are being sent home with three days’ worth of meals, and parents can pick up meals for next week on Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at any of the elementary schools or high school.
Superintendents have said quarantine rules are making in-person learning difficult to sustain. But Gov. Brian Kemp has refused their request to have teachers declared “critical infrastructure workers,” which would allow superintendents to order exposed teachers to keep providing face-to-face instruction, as long as they wear masks and don’t show symptoms of the respiratory illness.
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Georgia’s Department of Public Health countermanded a move by Bulloch County schools this month to change quarantine rules to allow exposed students to avoid the quarantines that have kept nearly 1,000 students and employees in that 11,000-student district out of class at various times.
The Statesboro Herald reported that district leaders said exposed students could return as long as they’re asymptomatic and masked. But Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey told the district to rescind the move days later, calling it “out of compliance.” She noted that violating the department’s standing quarantine order is a misdemeanor under state law.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, more than 350,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the state and more than 7,800 people have died from the virus, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
The Associated Press contributed to this report