Georgia schools going virtual due to COVID spike

One of Georgia’s largest school districts will start the second semester virtually amid the state’s surge in COVID cases.

Clayton County Public Schools south of Atlanta said Thursday students will learn remotely from Jan. 5 through Jan. 7 and then return to school on Jan. 10. Superintendent Morcease Beasley said the additional time away from the classroom will allow students and employees who test positive for the virus to complete recommended quarantine periods. Testing will be available at the district’s schools on Jan. 5 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Beasley said the decision to go virtual was not taken lightly.

“As we continue to monitor the surge in COVID-19 cases within our county, we understand that our schools and offices are microcosms of our respective communities,” Beasley said in a statement. “We have to act with caution and encourage families to participate in the vaccination and testing opportunities available to ensure we can have school with minimal disruptions to the learning process.”

Clayton is Georgia’s fifth largest school system. It serves more than 50,000 students. Rockdale County Public Schools southeast of Atlanta is also going virtual to start the new year.

“The rationale for this decision is to allow for access to testing considering what likely will have been congregant holiday gatherings and travel associated with New Year celebrations,” Rockdale Superintendent Terry Oatts said in a statement.

Morehouse College in Atlanta said separately on Thursday it is going virtual when classes resume on Jan. 12, and it does not plan to restart in-person instruction until after Jan. 28. Emory University previously announced it was also switching to virtual classes.

Georgia has hit new records for COVID infections, with state officials reporting a staggering 25,265 confirmed cases Thursday. Six health care systems that serve metro Atlanta said in a combined statement this week they have experienced 100 to 200 percent increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations in eight days, with the vast majority of the patients unvaccinated. They urged people not to come to the hospital just to get tested for the virus.