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COVID-19 sends home 5th graders at Cobb County school

Parents abruptly learn of the outbreak.

MARIETTA, Ga. — A Cobb County school sent home its fifth graders Wednesday because of an outbreak of COVID-19.  The move has reignited a debate over the school’s policy - and the policy statewide – not mandating masks for school children.  

System wide, Cobb County reported 256 cases of COVID at its schools last week.  This week, the number of cases jumped in the fifth grade at East Side Elementary and all those students had to abruptly leave late Wednesday morning.

"I think this was inevitable," said Jamie Moran, the mother of a fifth grader.

She was among the parents who started lining up mid-morning after the notification went out that fifth graders needed to leave the school starting at 11 a.m. and start learning virtually.

"Just from last year, I knew something was going to happen eventually. Just kind of prepared for it," said Kelly Porter, the mother of a second grader at East Side.

"They need to make vaccines available for younger kids." said Brittany Marigliano, the parent of a fifth grader. She answered "no" when asked if she favored mask mandates. 

Cobb County’s school board decided to make in-classroom masks voluntary and not required. The outbreak at East Side sparked new anger among parents who disagree.

RELATED: Mask or no mask? Here's how districts are starting the school year

"I think its pretty ridiculous that there’s not a mask mandate and we’re pretty much back to where we were a year ago," said Ben Graves, father of a fifth grader.

"They should have started with the masks [required], added Mohammed Ilyas, the grandfather of a fifth grader. 

Three miles away, 11Alive saw about 60 cars lined up at a COVID testing site that has been in operation for months but got much busier in the last two weeks. A worker told said children got 60 to 70 percent of the tests this day.

"I think we have to be smart about it but I don’t agree with vaccines for kids, at all," said Porter, who reflects the thinking on the Cobb school board that declined to mandate masks in schools.

"I don't think it’s necessary right now. Just be safe, wear your mask if you want to, keep your distance. Wash your hands that’s all you need to do right now," said Porter. "I think if you feel sick, stay home."

Cobb County schools didn’t respond to a question about how the school system distinguished this outbreak from the other hundreds of COVID cases they had last week and into this week. 

The school system said the children sent home will learn virtually through August 20, a week from Friday.