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District announces plans to bring students back to North Paulding High School after temporary closure

Beginning Monday, Aug. 17, students will be allowed to return to the building for in-person learning - with new conditions.

PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. — The Paulding County School District has released details of its plan to bring students back to school for in-person learning at North Paulding High School, after it was forced to close temporarily following positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff just days into the new school year.

The district announced on Sunday that the school - the largest in Paulding County - would close to students for virtual learning after nine cases of COVID-19 were confirmed within the first week back to school. That number of confirmed cases has since risen to 35, according to a letter to parents published Aug. 12.

Since closing, students have been learning virtually, and will continue to do so through the end of the week, according to the district. However, beginning Monday, Aug. 17, students will be allowed to return to the building for in-person learning - with new conditions to try and hold back the spread of COVID-19.

RELATED: Former Paulding school nurse says she resigned over COVID-19 concerns

According to the plan, the district will reduce the number of students on campus by half, which they also hope will relieve hallway congestion and improve traffic flow during class changes - and prevent a repeat of what happened in a photo that went viral during the first week of school that showed students crowded in a hallway not socially distancing with some not wearing masks. The face coverings are not required for students in the district. 

Credit: AP
In this photo posted on Twitter, students crowd a hallway, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga. The 30,000-student suburban Paulding County school district in suburban Atlanta resumed classes Monday with 70% of students returning for in-person classes five days a week, days after the principal at North Paulding announced some members of the football team had tested positive for COVID-19. The district says it is encouraging mask use, but isn't requiring it. (Twitter via AP)

"Obviously the rate of COVID-19 spread is a concern that will require us to adapt our plan for in-person instruction to protect the health and safety of our students and staff," the district wrote in the letter. 

RELATED: Paulding County student defends face-to-face learning as backlash continues

In addition to reducing the capacity of the school, the district said it would move to a "hybrid" virtual / in-person schedule that would split students into two groups based on the first letter of their last name. 

Students with whose names begin with the letters A-K would participate in in-person learning on Mondays and Wednesday, while students with last names beginning with L-Z would participate in digital learning. Those groups would then swap the method of instruction for Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the first group (A-K) learning virtually and the second (L-Z) learning in person. Fridays would be reserved for online learning in order to complete assignments or participate in individual or small group support, as needed.

On days when students are home for digital learning, the district said teachers have been instructed to post their assignments and expectations for that day by 9 a.m.

Credit: Paulding County School District

When students are inside the building, The district said it will be using staggered hallway transitions so that even-numbered classrooms exit two minutes earlier than their odd-numbered counterparts. Dismissal times have also been adjusted so that car-riders and student-drivers are dismissed at 3:15 p.m. Bus riders and student athletes will be dismissed 10 minutes later at 3:25 p.m.

As for extra-curricular activities, those are set to go ahead. Volleyball and softball practices will resume on Thursday, Aug. 13. Football, band, ROTC and cross country will begin again on Monday, Aug. 17. All sports will continue to follow GHSA guidelines, the district said.

Read the full plan from the district.

As it has before, the district is assuring district parents that it is ready to meet the challenge that learning during a pandemic has presented, an assurance that the school board and superintendent reiterated during a public, in-person meeting Tuesday night, during which several parents voiced their support for continued in-person learning.

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