Fifth graders at one suburban Atlanta elementary school were sent home Wednesday for virtual learning due to high numbers of positive Covid-19 cases, according to a school district email sent to parents and obtained by CNN.
“This morning, based on our district protocols and at the guidance of the Department of Public Health in coordination with district leaders, we’ve had to make the difficult decision to have our 5th-grade classes move to virtual learning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and high positive case numbers,” the email from East Side Elementary reads.
According to the email, students will begin virtual learning on Thursday, August 12, and continue until August 20. Students can return to in-person learning on Monday, August 23, according to the email.
East Side Elementary is in Cobb County, Georgia. CNN has reached out to Cobb County Schools for comment.
Also on Wednesday, Clayton County Public Schools confirmed that as a precaution, staff and students at Kemp Primary School in Hampton, Georgia, about thirty miles south of Atlanta, will “operate in a virtual learning environment for the remainder of the week,” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The school district will continue to make decisions based on the best interest of all students and employees while monitoring ongoing matters relative to the pandemic,” according to the news release.
The debate about how schools should handle Covid-19 protocols has been a divisive issue across the country. School districts, parents, health departments and state officials are grappling with how to return students to classrooms safely at a time when the Delta variant is driving a surge in cases across the country and while younger students are still unable to be vaccinated.
In Cobb County, masks are optional for students and staff, per the district’s website, but there is social distancing in classrooms when possible.
Some parents have expressed concern over the district’s lack of mask mandate and on Thursday, they’re expected to protest at the Cobb School District’s central office in Marietta demanding that the district implement a mask mandate.
The largest school district in Georgia, Gwinnett County Public Schools, changed its mask policy from optional to required for students, staff, visitors and on school buses when school starts, regardless of vaccination status.
“This decision takes into account current conditions, the rise in COVID-19 case rates in Gwinnett County, and the ineligibility of children age 12 and younger for the vaccine,” a statement from the school district said.
Atlanta Public Schools require masks for all students and teachers, along with other prevention strategies like physical distancing when feasible, as do Dekalb County Schools.
Fulton County Schools, where students started August 9, require masks in schools where the surrounding community’s rate of infection exceeds 100 per 100,000 residents, which public health officials consider “high community spread.”
The piecemeal approach has been frustrating for parents throughout Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp declined to issue state guidance but signed an executive order restricting schools from using the state’s public health emergency as a reason for their decisions.
CNN’s Dakin Andone, Mallory Simon, Amara Walker and Maria Cartaya contributed to this report.