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Three-quarters of Cherokee County students back for in-person learning today

Even with the significant number of students heading back to school, some are still critical of the option even being allowed.

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — Monday is the first day of school in Cherokee County and district leaders say about 78 percent of the students have opted to return to the classroom for in-person learning.

The district issued guidelines for a safe return, but some parents still fear safe pandemic protocols can't be enforced. First-day jitters are common but, this time around, the coronavirus is adding a level of uncertainty for some families in Cherokee County. Photos from a new student meet-and-greet at Freedom Middle School show little-to-no social distancing.

“You've got 50 percent that's like, ‘Ah, no big deal, it's just the flu’ and then you get the other 50 that's like, ‘We're literally going into almost a hospital environment but with no PPE’,” one parent said.

According to the district's website, masks and face coverings are required for staff and strongly recommended for students. This has one parent concerned.

“Think about a kindergarten. I mean, the kids are going to have runny noses, the kids are going to cough the kids are going to sneeze all those things that require a teacher to be in very close proximity to those kids,” he said.

In an email sent to staff, Cherokee County School District Superintendent Dr. Brian Hightower said:

“Reopening our schools and serving our students through two instructional models is the greatest challenge any of us have faced as educators and support staff.”

He adds:

“For those of you who are unhappy with various facets of our reopening plan, I ask you to reflect on the best direction for you in your role with the CCSD.”

But a parent who spoke with 11Alive was still very critical of this plan.

“These are things that, you know, in a corporate environment would never fly,” he said. “That's why so many people are working remote. You realize that because they can't guarantee the safety of their people, but yet, in school, we're just going to throw up everything at us for all these kids in the classroom and hope for the best.”

On the night before the big day, Cherokee County School District leaders confirmed there are just nine active reported staff cases in the district. And, out of the district's 42,500 students, just 9,500 opted to learn digitally from home.