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Four Hall schools have now canceled in-person classes amid COVID-19 absences
East Hall High School extends in-person cancellation

Update, Dec. 11: Extensions of closures were announced Dec. 11 and one school was added to the list.

Four Hall County schools have temporarily canceled in-person class amid concerns over COVID-19 absences. The district announced its first closure on Friday, Dec. 4, and three new closures on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

The district announced early Tuesday afternoon that CW Davis Middle School would be the second school to temporarily cancel in-person classes, after East Hall High School made the transition to at-home learning on Monday, Dec. 7. 

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The system made the announcement about the middle school Tuesday afternoon, as well as extended East Hall High’s at-home instruction, which was originally scheduled for three days and was announced Dec. 4. East Hall will now continue online learning for the remainder of the week.

Cherokee Bluff Middle and High schools were added to the list of in-person cancellations on Tuesday evening.

Those taking in-person classes at CW Davis, Cherokee Bluff High and Cherokee Bluff Middle will move to “blended” learning for three days from Wednesday, Dec. 9 through Friday, Dec. 11, meaning they will be required to complete assignments from home with the intent of coming back to school at a later time.

By the end of Tuesday, Dec. 8, CW Davis had six absences among students and five among staff resulting from COVID-19 positive cases, the district reported. Lewis said the middle school has 119 students in quarantine.

East Hall High dropped from 11 cases on Monday to 10 on Tuesday. Of those 10, Lewis said one is a staff member and the other nine are students.

“We’re extending that because we’ve still got some pending test results with some of our students,” Stan Lewis, Hall’s director of community relations, said of East Hall’s closure Tuesday afternoon. 

By the end of Tuesday, Dec. 8, the district reported 13 absences among students and one among staff resulting from COVID-19 positive cases at Cherokee Bluff High. Lewis said the high school has 160 students in quarantine. 

Because Cherokee Bluff High shares a building with Cherokee Bluff Middle, he said the district decided to play it safe and also switch the middle school to blended learning. 

“They share the same heating and air system, the same cafeteria,” Lewis said. “We want to make sure that we’re being cautious.”

As of Tuesday, Cherokee Bluff Middle had one student and one staff positive case. 

Lewis said the district has a panel of six personnel including staff from the department of transportation, food services, teaching and learning, communications and student services. This group meets regularly with principals to get feedback on the state of their schools. 

The district looks at two factors when determining when to shift from in-person to blended learning.

“No. 1, do we have enough adults in the building to continue with school?” he said. “And No. 2, is there any kind of evidence that we’ve got transmission occurring on campus?”

This week, Lewis said the system received a strong indication that transmission happened on all the campuses that are now moving to blended learning.

Gainesville Superintendent Jeremy Williams told The Times Tuesday that the Gainesville City Schools district has experienced a high amount of COVID-19 positive cases, but has not made the decision to close a school at this point. He said the district still has enough staff coverage to teach. 

The Gainesville district reported 35 new cases among staff and students during the week after Thanksgiving break.

“If any decisions are made to transition a school to remote learning, we hope to provide adequate notice to students, families and employees,” Williams said. 

Digital editor Thomas Hartwell contributed to this report.