Students at North Paulding High will return part-time in hybrid plan

Students at the Paulding County high school that drew national attention after leaked photographs showed crowded hallways and few masks will return to campus part-time under a new plan to control the spread of the coronavirus.

North Paulding High School, among the earliest schools to open its doors in the nation, was closed last week as a half dozen students and three staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

The disease has spread since then, with at least 35 confirmed cases now reported in the school of 2,000 students, the Paulding County School District said Wednesday.

The school district had already planned to close schools the last two days of last week to assess safety protocols and for sanitizing, but announced over the weekend that the high school would remain closed at the start of this week, first for two days, then three and now for the rest of the week.

Next week, students will return on alternating days based on where their last name falls in the alphabet, says a document signed by Superintendent Brian Otott and Principal Gabe Carmona. With half the students on campus each day, hallway congestion will be reduced and it “will help mitigate other challenges we have identified” since school started last Monday, it says.

Students will be attending classes online when not on campus.

The aunt of two students there who have tested positive for the virus, said the boys’ father got a COVID-19 test Monday and got his results Tuesday showing he also had the disease.

“He said he’s just really tired,” the aunt, Angie Franks, said of her brother, who didn’t want his name published for fear of retribution against his children. She said he has flu-like symptoms and nausea. He also has type 2 diabetes and is a smoker, which both can magnify the consequences of infection with the virus.

Franks said the boys are feeling well, but the family is worried about Franks’ mother, 72, who got a visit from one of the boys a week ago. She has cancer.

Another early-opening district has had similar challenges. Cherokee County announced Wednesday that it was closing Woodstock High School until Aug. 31. The district announced earlier this week that it was closing Etowah High School until then, too, in both cases to arrest the spread of the coronavirus.