SEVIERVILLE — An extended Christmas break helped Sevier County schools drop their active cases of COVID-19 by more than 50%.

Students switched to online learning Dec. 17, days before classes ended for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

They started their return Thursday, with half of the students coming back for online learning scheduled to come to schools then and the other half set to come Friday.

“Things seem to have gone fairly smoothly,” said Tony Ogle, spokesperson for the school system. “Student and teachers were exited to be together again..”

Regular in-person classes were set to resume Monday, although many students continued to use remote learning.

Also Thursday, the school system released its first update on COVID-19 numbers since Dec. 14.

The number of active cases among students dropped from 158 to 56, while the number of staff with positive cases fell from 80 to 27.

The total number of students quarantined fell more dramatically, from 742 to 197. There were 29 staff quarantined Thursday, compared with 163 in December, according to the numbers provided by the schools.

“We haven’t seen numbers like that since the second week of November,” Ogle said. “We find that hopeful.”

Contact Jeff Farrell at jfarrell@themountainpress.com or Twitter at @jeffmtnpress

Contact Jeff at jfarrell@themountainpress.com or Twitter at @jeffmtnpress