Ware County Schools temporarily close after COVD-19 outbreak

WARE COUNTY, Ga. — Ware County Schools is temporarily closed after a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases. The district announced Friday that students will return in three weeks.

Both virtual and in-person instruction will stop while crews do a deep clean and the administration reassesses its safety plan.

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In all, 1,032 students, a sixth of the total student population, are in quarantine. That number includes more than 300 students who had to quarantine before school even started last Wednesday.

As of Friday, 79 students and 67 staff members have tested positive for the virus.

“They need a restart,” Superintendent Bert Smith said. “This year, we wanted to start as normal. And, at the time we had that information, that’s what we were going to do.”

Smith said COVID-19 has stretched his staff thin. Many teachers are having to cover classes during their planning periods. Registered nurses who teach at the high school have been pulled to the clinic because of the high case count, according to Smith.

“It’s just unfortunate where we are and having to address this like we have,” he said.

The district is also mourning the loss of a teacher who died due to COVID-19. The teacher fell ill before the school year started.

Teachers will return in two weeks and have one full week of pre-planning before students return in three weeks on Sept. 7. A school board meeting is scheduled Aug. 30 to discuss how to move forward.

Action News Jax’s Robert Grant asked the superintendent if a mask requirement is on the table.

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“All those considerations could come into play at the next board meeting. It’s not in place right now. But anything is possible when our kids return,” he said.

Extracurriculars, including football, are still being conducted. Smith said school officials can closely monitor those activities but added if anything changes, the board can shut it down.

The delta variant added another layer of concern because it is impacting children more. This is unlike what occurred during the start of school last year.

In all, 1,800 students were also attending virtual classes last year compared to 130 this year, which means more students in the classroom.

Cody Ayala, a father of two children in elementary school, said he’s concerned but happy with the district’s decision.

“I just hope it gets better. We just have to pray and keep going on. And hopefully, it will,” he said.