The Packed High School Featured in That Viral Photo Is Already Facing a Coronavirus Outbreak

Illustration for article titled The Packed High School Featured in That Viral Photo Is Already Facing a Coronavirus Outbreak
Image: AP

An image of a crowded high school hallway in Paulding County, Georgia, sparked horror across the internet this week, what with the total absence of social distancing and paucity of masks. But it turns out, it gets worse!

Buzzfeed reports that as bad as the photo is, the reality is that North Paulding High School is already battling an outbreak of covid-19, which spread to several members of the school’s football team. The team worked out together in a crowded indoor gym for a fundraiser last week, and many tested positive for the virus shortly thereafter. Despite having plenty of advance warning, the school opted to alert parents to the outbreak only hours before class was set to resume:

“Days before school even started, they knew that many of the football players were sick,” said a person familiar with the issues at the high school. “They knew from before day one that it wasn’t going to work.”


Multiple teachers say there are positive results among the staff, including those who have come into contact with “most teachers” at the school while exhibiting symptoms.

“That was exactly one week ago, so we are all waiting to see who gets sick next week,” a North Paulding teacher told BuzzFeed.

While virtual learning was presented as an option, some students say they have no choice but to attend in person after all of the slots for virtual classes were filled.

One student, identified as James, was unable to sign up for online learning and attended class on Tuesday. When his parents saw the photograph of the packed hallway, they told him they wouldn’t be going back. But a few hours later, his mother was told by the school that students who “chose not to go to school” faced the possibility of suspension or expulsion.


He went back to class on Wednesday. “I had no choice,” he said.

Night blogger at Jezebel

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Despite recommendations from CDC health officials, the district has called mask-wearing a “personal choice” and said that social distancing “will not be possible to enforce” in “most cases.” While the school provided teachers with face shields and masks and encouraged staff and students to wear them, they are not required and not all teachers have chosen to use them.

Baffling. Schools have had dress code rules since day one. They have no problem sending a girl home if her skirt is too short or making her wear an ugly oversized tshirt to cover her bare shoulders. But they can’t tell kids to wear a mask? When they’re also making no attempt at social distancing?