Gwinnett schools will be all virtual next week

Gwinnett County Public Schools will go fully virtual from Jan. 19-22.
Gwinnett County Public Schools will go fully virtual from Jan. 19-22.

Gwinnett County Public Schools will hold classes entirely virtually next week due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and resulting employee absences, the school district announced Wednesday.

Monday is a student and staff holiday for Martin Luther King Day. Classes will be entirely digital from Tuesday through Friday. The school district next week will evaluate COVID-19 case numbers and staffing levels to determine whether to resume in-person classes on Jan. 25.

“The reality is that our school system—like our community and the state— is feeling the results of the holidays and winter break,” Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said in a news release. “We are experiencing higher numbers of cases, suspected cases, and close contacts among our in-person students and staff. ...While we fully intend to honor the choices our families made for their children in regard to receiving instruction in-person or digitally, the bottom line is that we must have the staff on hand in order to be able to do so.”

On Tuesday, 68 students and 26 employees reported testing positive for the coronavirus, according to school district data. Fifty more students and 30 employees were suspected of having the virus, while 651 students and 69 staff were identified as close contacts of those with the virus.

A paraprofessional at Rock Springs Elementary died last week of COVID-19 after being identified as a close contact of a co-worker with the virus.

With the new cases, 785 staffers are out of school or work, including 460 teachers, according to the school district. Gwinnett, like other school systems nationwide, has a pandemic-related substitute shortage.

Teachers will still deliver lessons digitally from their classrooms, the district said. They will be allowed to bring their school-aged children into buildings. The digital learning week should give many quarantined employees the necessary time to return to work, according to the school district.

Student attendance will be documented next week.

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Meals will be available for curbside pick-up at schools and along all bus routes countywide. The buses will run on their routes from about 10:45 a.m. to noon.

The school district will share updates about the return to classrooms on its website and through the SchoolMessenger app.

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