Clarke County School District elementary and middle-school students will not have the option of returning to in-person classes on Jan. 19 as previously planned, Superintendent Xernona Thomas announced Thursday.
After a month of giving parents the option of sending their children back to school buildings, Thomas announced a pause on in-person instruction after COVID-19 spiked in early December due to Thanksgiving travel, continuing into January in anticipation of another spike after winter break.
That spike happened and has not abated. Clarke County currently has 786 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days—four times the level the CDC recommends as safe to reopen schools. UGA students’ return to campus next week also brings with it the possibility of yet another wave of COVID cases.
Clarke County doesn’t meet most of the CDC criteria for reopening schools, Executive Director of Student Support Services Jillian Whatley told the Board of Education at a work session Thursday night. New cases, the positive test rate, hospitalizations and intensive care beds occupied are all well over what the CDC deems “low risk.”
Thomas said in a letter to parents that she can’t provide a firm date for reopening schools.
“A noticeable decline in COVID positive results is the first metric we will consider when beginning the phase-in to in-person instruction,” she said.
Meanwhile, in Oconee County—where the COVID numbers are even worse than in Clarke—not only are schools open, but students are merely “strongly” encouraged,” not required, to wear a mask.
Jackson County is on an alternating-day schedule to reduce the chance of close contact that would require students to quarantine, and is enforcing mask-wearing for all students and staff.
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