The Cherokee County School District, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, reopened for more than 30,000 of its 42,000 students on Aug. 3, according to superintendent Brian Hightower.
By Tuesday morning, there were 59 people who tested positive for COVID-19, he said in a statement.
“We are not hesitating to quarantine students and staff who have had possible exposure – even if the positive test was prompted by possible exposure rather than symptoms, as all positive cases can lead to the infection of others,” he said.
In all, 925 students and staff members have been quarantined for two weeks.
And the district also temporarily closed Etowah High School, one of six high schools it operates. At least 14 students there tested positive for the virus, and another 15 are awaiting results. Almost 300 of the district’s quarantined population attends or works at that school.
Students at Etowah will resume distance learning until Aug. 31, according to Hightower, but extracurricular athletics will still be allowed.
He also urged the use of masks and other precautions as a way to decrease the chance of closures at other schools in the district — after photos taken at Etowah went viral showing back-to-school students packing the hallways without wearing face coverings.
“We know all parents do not believe the scientific research that indicates masks are beneficial, but I believe it and see masks as an important measure to help us keep schools open,” he said.
Students throughout the rest of the district are being asked to maintain social distancing and to wear masks when it’s not possible.
“While cases are predominately affecting our high schools and we anticipate the need for quarantines will continue to rise in them with the possibility of more high school closures,” Hightower said. “We also may see more of our middle schools and elementary schools require quarantines in the coming days and weeks.”
He said that the reopening effort would require dedication from everyone involved in the district, including parents, students and faculty.
“We need our entire community to help us keep our promise,” he said. “We need you to stay home when you’re sick; get tested if you’re symptomatic; report your child’s positive test to our school; follow the quarantine and limit interaction with non-family members during this period; social distance when you can and wear a mask when you can’t.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.