Fulton County School System high school students will end the semester in remote learning due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. And all students join them in virtual instruction after the winter break, as the school district plans a two-week transition back to in-person instruction when classes resume on Jan. 6.

FCS will switch high-school to remote learning on Dec. 16. North Springs High School in Sandy Springs switched a day earlier on Dec. 15 because of quarantining and staff absences, a press release said. The latest school-by-school report for Dec. 11-13 showed North Springs had four confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 12 staff or students were in quarantine.

FCS recommends that students be tested for COVID-19 before returning to in-person classes after the break.

Two-week ‘transition’ after break

The two-week winter break begins on Dec. 21. Teachers return to schools on Jan. 4 and students in all grades resume classes through remote learning on Jan. 6.

FCS will take two weeks to transition students enrolled in face-to-face instruction from remote learning back to school buildings and in-person instruction. Students enrolled in remote learning will continue with virtual classes.

Jan. 4: Teachers and staff return to schools for a teacher workday.

Jan. 5: Second teacher workday, during which many schools will be used as polling sites in Georgia’s U.S. Senate and Public Service Commission runoff elections.

Jan. 6: All students return to classes through remote learning.

Jan. 11: Elementary students whose parents chose face-to-face instruction switch from remote to in-person instruction. Students enrolled in remote learning continue their virtual classes.

Jan. 13: Middle and high school students enrolled in face-to-face instruction switch from remote to in-person instruction. Students enrolled in remote learning continue their virtual classes.

COVID-19 surge hit Sandy Springs

“As of the most recent report that we received today, the highest number of positive cases in one specific municipality exceeds 400 in Sandy Springs,” Looney told the school board on Dec. 10.

The ratio for Sandy Springs was even higher with 462.9 cases per 100,000 people, according to Fulton County Board of Health data for Dec. 11.

“We will close schools as it becomes necessary when the number of COVID cases in a particular school makes it untenable to have school,” Looney said. And we have to close for the contact tracing, or because we’re unable to sufficiently staff a school, because we have a number of staff members in quarantine based on the CDC recommendations.”

Most elementary and middle schools continued with in-person instruction and remote learning, though five changed to all remote learning for the last few days of the semester because of the numbers of people in quarantine and positive cases of COVID-19 reported among staff or students.

“We will honor our commitment to keep schools open as long as it is safe and operationally possible,” FCS said in the school district,” the release said.

Two elementary and three middle schools in the school district had three or more staff or students tested positive for COVID-19 at the school, with students and staff in quarantine. They also switched to remote learning through Dec. 18.

COVID-19 testing available

In a proactive measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, students and employees were being encouraged by the school district to seek COVID-19 testing before returning to a school or an FCS workplace. This was considered essential if they travel out of state/country during winter break; participate in any large gatherings; suspect being exposed to COVID-19; or had flu-like or COVID-like symptoms.

FCS arranged with CORE to set up COVID testing sites on Jan. 2 for faculty and staff members returning to work. Each will handle up to 500 people. Location announcements were expected by Dec. 18.

Other testing sites are available in the county. Those sites are listed online at the Fulton County Board of Health’s website. Tests can be scheduled by calling the COVID-19 Hotline at 404-613-8150 or visiting the COVID-19 testing website.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.