Cherokee high schools return to full-time classroom instruction

Etowah High School in Cherokee County is one of three district high schools returning to full-time, in-person instructions this week after raising COVID-19 cases at the schools. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The 3 schools had been on a hybrid schedule after COVID-19 cases surged

Three Cherokee County high schools where students had been attending in-person part-time since Sept. 3 returned to full-time Tuesday.

Creekview, Etowah and Woodstock high schools closed soon after they opened in August for the fall semester when their COVID-19 cases surged. Etowah and Woodstock closed first, followed by Creekview in mid-August after more than a quarter of the students there had to quarantine.

Cherokee was among the first school districts in the country to open. The district north of Atlanta captured national attention when a photo on social media showed scores of unmasked students outside Etowah High standing shoulder-to-shoulder for a group photo. The school closed a week later.

All students there and at the other two high schools shifted online, but by Sept. 3 those who requested it were able to return, if only part-time. The schools would operate on a “hybrid” model, with students taking turns attending in-person and online to reduce crowding and enhance physical distancing.

Some parents have rallied in support of opening schools in the district where about a quarter of students chose to attend online. Cherokee County School District Superintendent Brian Hightower described the challenge posed by the coronavirus at the high schools.

“Right now we’ve got a few high schools where it’s so hot or there’s such a cluster that seems to be following one school that we’re not sure when we can get them open,” he said at the Aug. 20 school board meeting. He explained that he had chosen the part-time model because “two days is better than no days." He worried about another surge, and then re-closure: “We want something better than popping, coming, reporting, popping in, popping out, popping back in, popping back out."

Hightower referred to the hybrid schedules as “three great lab situations” to look at an alternative attendance model during the pandemic.

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