north paulding high school georgia
North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, has been facing backlash after photos were widely shared on social media showing crowds of mask-less students filling the halls in the first week of school.
At least nine cases of coronavirus have now been reported at the school, including students and staff, according to local news.
The administration has said masks are a “personal choice” and suspended at least one student for posting the photos, although the suspension was later reversed.
The school has since announced it will shut for two days for deep cleaning.
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Students at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, returned to class on August 3. Within a day, photos of many mask-less students filling the halls went viral on social media, prompting concern about the risks of reopening schools.
Now, at least nine confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported among students and staff at the school, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The school told parents on Sunday that it is shutting its campus on Monday and Tuesday for cleaning, and that students would attend classes online in that period.
In a letter to parents reported by the outlet, principal Gabe Carmona wrote that six students and three staff members who were present at the school during the first week of classes have since tested positive for COVID-19. Previously, coronavirus cases were also reported on the school’s football team, according to another letter Caroma sent to parents.
Prior to these cases, a photo from inside the school was widely shared on social media, showing many students without masks crowding a hallway between classes. District superintendent Brian Otott acknowledged in another letter to parents that the photo “does not look good,” but argued that media were “using it to criticize without context our school reopening efforts.”
School administration had suspended at least one student (in a decision that has since been reversed) for posting the photos and threatened other students and staff with “consequences” for sharing any negative information or images about the school online.
Wearing a mask is a ‘personal choice,’ according to school policy
Many people reacting to the photos on social media expressed concern that few students appear to be wearing masks.
Clear evidence suggests that masks slow the spread of the virus.
A document from the school district states that wearing a mask is a “personal choice” and that district officials “strongly encourage” it but have not mandated it. The document also states that social distancing “will be employed as is feasible and practical.”
Some students who do wear masks have been bullied by their peers, according to one parent. And a current student, who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of repercussions, said wearing a mask was uncommon and elicited stares from peers at school.
“There were so many few people wearing masks that it felt as if we were the odds one out,” the student previously told Insider.
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