A photo of a cramped hallway full of hundreds of high school students in what is now known as a high school in Paulding County, Georgia, has gone viral — no pun intended — after it was posted to social media. For those who believe schools should not reopen, it was the perfect example of how social distancing inside school buildings may be impossible — and how it is extremely hard to force teenagers to wear masks or to set out clear regulations or guidelines on how to reopen schools safely. Indeed, in the photo, only two students can clearly be seen wearing a mask, and the students are shoulder to shoulder, stoking fears about viral transmission in reopened schools in Georgia.
Now, the superintendent of Paulding County Schools sent out an email to parents and staff in order to quell their concerns about the photo. TMZ posted the email on their website, in which the superintendent, Brian Otott, admits that the photo looks bad — but is simply an out of content snapshot. “Class changes at the high school level are a challenge when maintaining a specific schedule,” he said, “It is an area we are continuing to work on in this new environment to find practicable ways to further limit students from congregating.”
Paulding County, Georgia:
First day of school.
4 masks – if you zoom in — and zero social distancing.
This is gonna end badly… pic.twitter.com/pGUwzRr6VN
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) August 4, 2020
Still, Otott says that most of the feedback he’s received is about mask wearing in schools and adds that he cannot enforce a mask-wearing mandate. Governor Brian Kemp has refused to put a mask mandate in place in schools, essential businesses or places of work, or even non-essential businesses, and has gone as far as suing mayors who try to put a mask mandate in place in their own cities, despite evidence that mask wearing makes existing in public safer than not and can limit spread of COVID-19 and ultimately deaths due to the virus.
Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, today Etowah High School in Cherokee County started their first day of school.
Here's a seniors photo that was taken this morning. pic.twitter.com/3VwzN3d0pE
— Everything Georgia (@GAFollowers) August 4, 2020
Georgia has had some issues with school rollouts. Another photo of a school in Georgia, at Etowah High School in Woodstock, showed a large group of students gathered together, maskless, for a photo of matching outfits. In Gwinnett County, Georgia, which has the largest school system in the state, 260 employees in the district weren’t allowed to return to work because they either had the virus or had been potentially exposed. In Pickens County, Georgia, school had to be delayed for at least two weeks after teachers gathered for training and then quickly began to show symptoms of COVID-19.