By Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2020

ATLANTA (AP) - A metro Atlanta school system said Saturday it’s shutting down in-person classes at three high schools until January because of surging coronavirus infections.

School officials in Cherokee County north of Atlanta sent letters Saturday to parents of students at River Ridge, Sequoyah and Woodstock high schools, saying Monday classes will all shift online. Students will also take final exams at home, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“We understand these closings create hardships and are disappointing to students and their families, but these are necessary measures to avoid potential spread within our schools,” school officials wrote in their letter.

They said each school had sent home between 285 and 476 students to quarantine after more than 20 students and staff tested positive for the virus at each campus. Students begin their holiday break Dec. 21, and administrators plan to reopen classrooms Jan. 6.

Scattered school closures have happened elsewhere in the state. School officials in Chatham County announced Friday they’re closing Windsor Forest High School in Savannah to in-person classes because of coronavirus infections among school staff. It will reopened to students Jan. 11.

The closures were ordered as the number of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 infections in Georgia has soared about 530,000, with probable and confirmed deaths linked to the virus surpassing 10,000, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The agency reported Saturday that more than 37,500 people were being treated for the virus at Georgia hospitals.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Tuesday that Georgia should begin distributing the first limited doses of a vaccine to hospitals and nursing homes next week. Nursing home residents and health care workers will get the first shots, and Kemp cautioned it will be months before the general public is vaccinated.

Kemp has not mandated wearing masks or imposed other new restrictions in response to the soaring infections. Instead, the Republican governor is urging people to keep wearing masks, avoid large gatherings and maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet (1.8 meters).

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