ATLANTA — School districts across the metro area are working to finalize plans for the upcoming school year to protect families as they deal with the coronavirus.
One of the latest districts to announce its plans for the next school year is Cobb County. They’re giving parents a choice to send their kids back to school or keep them at home for remote learning.
“We’re not going to compromise staff safety. We’re not going to compromise student safety, and we’re going to do that in a way that gives you the most flexibility as a parent,” said John Floresta, chief strategy and accountability officer for Cobb County Schools.
[COUNTY-BY-COUNTY: Plans for returning to school this fall]
Like their metro neighbors in Gwinnett County, Cobb’s school system has announced parents will have until July 10 to decide whether their child will be an online learner or return to a face-to-face format.
The initial commitment is for the first semester.
For online learners, a single portal for schoolwork and communication between parents, students and teachers has been further developed.
“If I do decide to send my child back, what does the classroom environment and what does the school now look like as compared to when they left on March 13?” Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr asked Floresta.
“We won’t really know until we get this response back from our community. We think we know, but we won’t know until we actually get some parent input on how many parents want to keep their kids at home and how many want to go back into the school. Once you do walk in the school we are taking every public health safety measure and we’re implementing them,” Floresta said.
That includes strong recommendations for masks. There will be sanitizing stations, daily cleanings and fogging of buildings. School leaders say they’re investing in ongoing teacher training and equipment needs to make sure they can support students between both formats.
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“I’m excited for the 9th grade. It’s like a new beginning,” student Zion Goree said.
While a decision is still pending for Atlanta public schools and DeKalb County, Clayton County students are likely to have alternating weekday schedules that give them a hybrid of face-to-face and online learning.
Employees will be masked. Students won’t be required to wear masks.
“Because we know that we can’t fiscally sustain requiring 55,000 students every day to wear a mask,” said Clayton County Schools superintendent Dr. Morcease Beasley.
“When the elementary kids see their friends who they haven’t seen in months they’re going to want to hug them and touch them. How you going to keep that apart?” metro father Tony McCrear asked.
Fulton County’s school board is just days away from making its decision. Its superintendent says the district can’t responsibly reopen unless the COVID-19 spread is low to moderate.
“We’re going to do everything we can as a district to have school, but in many ways we are absolutely dependent on the community helping slow the spread of this virus so that we can have school,” said Fulton County Schools superintendent Dr. Mike Looney.
We know the infection numbers can change all of these plans.
Each school system is addressing internet access and equipment challenges, as seen across the state in the final months of the last school year.
Leaders say the Cobb Schools Foundation has raised over $250,000 for devices and student internet access.