CHATSWORTH — While Murray County Schools didn't see a substantial surge in COVID-19 cases among students and staff the first week back from winter break, cases "are up significantly this week," said Superintendent Steve Loughridge.
Last week, the school system had 57 student cases of COVID-19 and 21 staff cases, which is about 3% of the school system's total staff and "less than 1% of students," Loughridge said. However, "we're higher this week, by quite a bit."
As of Wednesday, there were 57 new student cases of COVID-19 since last Friday, and 21 new cases of COVID-19 among staff members, according to the school system.
Consequently, the school system is using distance learning for middle and high schools Thursday and for all schools Friday, according to Derichia Lynch, executive assistant to the superintendent.
"Our hope is to slow the spread through our schools by taking a wellness distance learning day Friday," and then with a regularly-scheduled off-day Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, "hopefully everyone will be well and ready to return on Tuesday."
Ultimately, "the number of staff available will be the determining factor for us" when considering the merits of remote instruction versus in-person education, said Loughridge.
"We're trying to get through this (surge) and take it one day at a time."
Masks are currently encouraged but not mandated in Murray County Schools.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Murray County had recorded a total of 7,299 cases of COVID-19 — 40th-most among Georgia's 159 counties — with 384 hospitalizations attributed to COVID-19, 143 confirmed deaths, and 10 probable deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Murray County's rate of 18,129 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents is 11th-highest in the state.
During last week's Murray County Board of Education work session, Loughridge presented a draft of the school system's 2022-23 calendar, and the board can adopt that calendar at Thursday's meeting.
"The first thing you always have to do is get the school calendar adopted," Loughridge said. "Then you can work on a budget and all those things."
The proposed calendar is "pretty close to the same as this past year, with the exception of the start of Christmas break," Loughridge said. On the proposed calendar, holiday break would kick off with a half-day on Thursday, Dec. 22, and students would return Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.
This school year the holiday break began with a half-day Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, and students returned from break Jan. 4.
The proposed calendar includes five professional learning days for staff leading up to the start of the 2022-23 school year for students Sept. 6, Loughridge said. There are also three professional learning days May 30-June 1 after students complete their year with a half-day May 26, 2023.