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No, Hall County and Gainesville schools are not planning to stay closed for the year after Thanksgiving
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Gainesville High students make their way across campus to their next classroom Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, during a class change. - photo by Scott Rogers

 The superintendents of both the Hall and Gainesville school systems say there is no truth to rumors that schools will close for Thanksgiving and not reopen until after Christmas break.

Gainesville Schools Superintendent Jeremy WIlliams told The Times on Tuesday that he’d sent an email to his staff and parents on Thursday, Nov. 12, telling them there’d been “quite a few rumors going around about GCSS closing down after Thanksgiving.”

“We continue to monitor daily and weekly trends in our school system,” he wrote. “There are no plans to close the district at this time. Our first semester has been a success, and we look forward to learning how well our students improved since the beginning of the year through specific assessments across all grade levels.”

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Williams encouraged his staff to “be vigilant,” wash their hands, wear masks and keep a safe distance from others.

“Let's finish strong these last few school weeks of 2020,” his email, which also went to parents, said.

Williams said the school district’s number of COVID-19 cases have not yet warranted a large-scale closure across the system, but, he added, “I am more worried about late January to early March when we may feel the Winter Break impact and fewer outdoor opportunities.”

Gainesville reports its COVID-19-positive student and staff absences weekly on its website, and reported Monday a total of nine. That number represents 0.1% of the district’s about 9,000 students and staff.

The system also reports the number and percentage quarantining, and reported a total 62, or 0.69%, on Monday.

The system peaked in COVID-19 positives the week of Oct. 5, with 18, or 0.2%, and saw a sharp spike in those quarantining on the week of Oct. 26, with 216, or 2.4%. That number came down drastically again, to 48, or 0.53%, the following week.

The school districts quarantine individuals or classes if those people were for 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of an individual who tests positive.  

Williams said Tuesday the spike was attributed to a precautionary closure responding to one individual.

“Multiple classrooms were closed down,” he said, adding that “very few” of the quarantines turn into positive cases. “An example is if an employee tests positive and has been moving throughout the classroom, we send the whole class home.”

Williams said he encourages everyone to continue taking precautions and support the county’s “hALL IN” initiative, which encourages the same.

Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield likewise told The Times his district would not shut down for the remainder of the semester. 

“We hope to keep having in-person school at as many locations as possible for as long as possible,” he said in an email on Tuesday.

Hall County reports near daily its absences of students or staff related to COVID-19 on its website. On Tuesday, the school system reported that a total 37 students and staff across all campuses and out of a total 30,230 students and staff were out on Monday, the latest day available for viewing. The system peaked in absences on Nov. 12 and 13, with 49, both days.

The district data also shows that nearly 3% of in-person students were quarantining as of Monday, while about 1.5% of employees were quarantining.

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