A photo of a crowded school hallway during class change has drawn national criticism of how schools are keeping students and staff safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
The photos shows numerous students navigating a main hallway at North Paulding High School during class change. A majority of students pictured are not wearing masks and all students are crowded close together.
Paulding superintendent Brian Otott sent out an email following the circulation of the photo, saying the students are not in the hall long enough to spread the coronavirus. Otott cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as saying exposure to COVID-19 starts after 15 minutes. However, the CDC says this is an operational guideline.
According to the CDC, data are insufficient to precisely define the duration of time that constitutes a prolonged exposure. Recommendations vary on the length of time of exposure; however, symptoms and the type of interaction (e.g., did the infected person cough directly into the face of the exposed individual) remain important.
“Class changes at the high school level are a challenge when maintaining a specific schedule,” Otott said. “It is an area we are continuing to work on in this new environment to find practicable ways to further limit students from congregating.”
The Paulding County School System has 33 schools and around 30,000 students in person and virtual. Around 30% of Paulding students are doing virtual learning. Over the weekend, the Paulding County School System was alerted of several football players at North Paulding High School who tested positive for the coronavirus. Football practice has been suspended for a week.
On the first day of school, Aug. 3, a Paulding County elementary students also tested positive for the coronavirus.
According to county spokesperson Jay Dillon, the student fell ill that day and was taken for rapid testing later Monday evening. The elementary classroom had 27 students. Those students who the school said had close contact with the sick child were told to stay home and quarantine. Dillon said the student also rode the bus Monday morning.
Despite these cases in the first week of school, Paulding County Schools will not be mandating masks.
“Wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them,” Otott said. “What we will do is continue to strongly encourage all students and staff to wear masks.”
Fulton and Cobb county school districts choose to start the school year remotely, but are discussing ways to phase into face-to-face instruction.