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Newton schools suspend fall sports, extracurriculars
Statement says they may return when COVID-19 transmission numbers are "favorable" in county
Eastside football player
An Eastside football player practices for the 2020 season.

Newton County Schools officials today suspended all fall sports and extracurricular activities beginning Monday, Aug. 17, the school district announced.

They also said they “will consider” offering the activities again when the statistics on transmission of COVID-19 within Newton County show them to be "favorable."

According to a statement from the Newton County School System, district officials decided on Aug. 7 to postpone in-person instruction as an option in favor of all-virtual instruction for all Newton County School System students. 

“In keeping with the same objective, NCSS leadership has determined that the risk of transmission supersedes our desire to continue extracurricular activities at this time. 

“As a result, all Newton County School System extracurricular activities are suspended effective Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. 

“District and school leadership will continue to monitor all indicators and will consider re-starting activities when those indicators are favorable.”

It stated officials took into account “the high rate of community transmission, as well as the exposure tracing among staff and student participants” before they made the decision.

“Newton County School System leaders, along with other school systems in the state and around the country, have made decisions that are unprecedented but driven by attempts to keep our students and staff safe,” it stated.

Officials said in the statement, “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and safety of our students and staff have been in the forefront of our thoughts as we plan for instruction and other school system activities.”

“District and school leaders examine the trends of community transmission in Newton County, statewide and nationally. Newton County has experienced a very high rate of community transmission as reported by agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Georgia Department of Public Health, and various other institutions who provide statistical analysis that is publicly available.”

The statement said the school system formed a COVID-19 response team “to review and communicate guidance to our employees and students participating in extracurricular activities.”

“The Georgia High School Association (GHSA), of which all three high schools in the Newton County School System are members, released guidance for return to sports conditioning beginning in June. 

“As the summer continued, the GHSA’s guidance phased in more activities and increased the number of participants allowed in each group. The association’s guidance included suggestions for social distancing and masking when possible. NCSS schools received updates on GHSA’s guidance on a weekly basis and followed the guidance at every step. 

“District and school leadership closely monitored activities and communicated on an almost daily basis regarding the activities in which students were participating in.”

“Even though guidelines were in place, NCSS extracurricular activities were affected by COVID-19 exposure. Each high school experienced cases of screening out athletes due to possible contact and/or symptoms. 

“Three groups of student athletes experienced short-term suspension of activities due to possible exposure to COVID-19.”

According to statistics from the Georgia Department of Public Health on Friday, Aug. 14, Newton County’s seven-day average was 27.7 confirmed cases, which is up from 25.3 on Aug. 6 and 14.9 on July 1.

Newton County had 1,944 confirmed cases on Friday, Aug. 14, including 387 in the last two weeks.

It also had 46 deaths attributed to COVID-19 on Friday, including 12 since Aug. 1, and 203 hospitalizations.