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The Georgia high school that suspended students who posted photos showing packed hallways and mask-less teens has reported nine cases of COVID-19 among students and staff.
North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, will temporarily shift to remote learning Monday and Tuesday as it disinfects its building and tracks any other potential cases, according to letters to parents from the district’s superintendent and the school’s principal that were first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The positive cases include three staff members and six students, all of whom were in school for “at least some time last week,” according to an Aug. 8 letter from North Paulding High Principal Gabe Carmona.
Parents will be notified Tuesday evening about whether the school plans to resume in-person instruction Wednesday.
“I apologize for any inconvenience this schedule change may cause, but hopefully we all can agree that the health and safety of our students and staff takes precedence over any other considerations at this time,” Paulding County School District Superintendent Brian Otott wrote in a letter Sunday.
The school was the subject of national attention last week after two students there tweeted photos of hallways packed with teens during the high school’s first few days of classes.
One 15-year-old student at North Paulding High School told BuzzFeed News that she was suspended for five days over her viral photo, although the suspension has since been reversed and will not appear on her disciplinary record. The suspension concerned the school’s policy about posting images of students to social media without consent, according to the New York Times.
“Day two at North Paulding High School,” the student wrote on Twitter. “It is just as bad. We were stopped because it was jammed. We are close enough to the point where I got pushed multiple go to second block. This is not ok. Not to mention the 10% mask rate.”
A second student, who has not been identified, also told BuzzFeed News they were suspended for posting a photo to Twitter. Their punishment was reversed, too, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Otott has previously said the photos lacked context and that students were only in the hallway briefly before moving on to their next class. He also said the photo didn’t “look good,” but the school cannot do much to enforce mask-wearing among its students.
The Paulding County School District and Carmona, the high school’s principal, did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment.
The images of students crowded shoulder-to-shoulder quickly became a flashpoint in a national conversation about whether schools can begin to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some teachers have penned mock obituaries and marched in the streets with fake coffins to protest the reopening plans they believe will put communities and educators at risk. President Donald Trump, however, has said in-person classes must resume to save a sputtering U.S. economy.
Cover: The crowded hallways between classes on August 4, 2020, at North Paulding High School in Georgia. (Photo: Hannah Watters)