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

A Paulding County High School Student thinks his district made the right choice to return to face-to-face instruction, even after positive COVID tests.

ATLANTA — A Paulding County High School junior is defending the school's decision to go back to face-to-face instruction, even as the district receives nationwide push back.

Dylan Harris says the photos of crowded hallways that went viral online are not what he's seeing at school every day and he told 11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross the district made the right decision. 

Dylan says he knew from the start of the pandemic he wanted to go back to in-person school as soon as it was safe and while he feels confident his school is being as safe as possible -- that doesn't mean it's the same. 

"Being back to school is very different. What used to be 35 students in a class is now what some teachers have in a day," he said. 

RELATED: Teachers weigh in on in-person versus virtual learning debate

Dylan Harris says most of his classes only have 10 or 12 students in them and all the desks face forward and they're spaced 6 feet apart. 

"It's not hey and giving hugs, it's like, hey elbow bump, and move along. We are not congregating in the halls or in the classrooms. And in between every class, the teachers are sanitizing the desk with the disinfectant that was provided," he said. 

Dylan's a junior at Hiram High School in Paulding County, and says for the week he's been back, he hasn't seen anything like the pictures of crowded hallways that came out of North Paulding High. 

"We're seeing nothing like that at my school, none of our hallways look like that. From the stairwell to the cafeteria, to even dismissal time, none of our hallways look like that. And I don't want North Paulding High, which is a much larger school with over 1,600 students to be a stereotype for all schools," he said.  

RELATED: Update: More than 800 Cherokee County students in quarantine as precaution amid rising COVID cases

Nine people at North Paulding have now tested positive for COVID-19, with dozens of students and teachers who had contact with those people now in quarantine. 

Dylan says they have not been notified of any positive cases at Hiram High since they started back to school. 

He says 80 percent of his classmates and 100 percent of the teachers are wearing masks every day although the district is not mandating it. 

"They're addressing that this is not our normalcy, they don't want this to be the new normal. They don't want this to keep going like this where we all have to be six feet apart and we can't hug our students or friends or teachers," he said.  

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Overall he says he feels safe at school and thinks the district made the right decision by allowing them back in class to learn. 

"I'm learning how much I touch my face, haha, and how much I hug people. And how much I care for people," he said. 

Dylan was in school at Hiram High today, but the kids at North Paulding were all on virtual learning after the school closed for two days for cleaning. 

At a board meeting tonight, the district will decide if the high school can reopen or will stay virtual after nine people tested positive.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information.