State school superintendent urges safety measures as students return to school

ATLANTA — Georgia’s top educator is sending his support and urging persistent safety measures as schools across the state start classes for the new year.

“The vast majority of districts have selected a model that gives families a choice between in-person and online learning. And in those districts, the majority of families are opting for in-person instruction,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a news release.

Woods urged those schools that are offering face-to-face classes to make sure they are following these safety measures:

  • Screen and monitor: If you or your child are sick or symptomatic, stay at home. See a physician and get tested.
  • Sanitize: Practice good hygiene and wash your hands.
  • Social distance: Whenever possible, stay at least six feet from others.
  • Wear a mask.

Woods said he knows the last measure about wearing a mask has become a political issue.

“Some see this as a personal choice and liberty issue, and I respect those points of view. Like many people, I find masks to be personally uncomfortable, but I wear one when I cannot maintain six feet of distance from others. We must keep the goal in mind: if this school year is to be successful, we will have to use all the available tools in our toolbox,” Woods said.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus and Schools -- extensive coverage as the metro goes Back 2 School]

The superintendent said that guidance from the Georgia Department of Education and Georgia Department of Public Health stresses the importance of face coverings, especially where social distancing cannot be maintained — such as buses, pickups/drop-offs, and hallway class changes.

“I have reminded local superintendents and boards of education that districts and schools have the authority to mandate masks/face coverings through their dress codes,” Woods said. “Individuals will have differences of opinion. We must work together and work through those differences. Let us not point fingers, but come together to find solutions as we face this uncertain time together.”


Woods also urged that teachers, students and parents alike not stay silent with their concerns about back to school plans.

“I want to state unequivocally that this is not acceptable. In every school and district in this state, teachers, staff, and students should be able to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal. Negative media reports and complaints from community members are not a reason to blame and shame — they are a reason to reflect on and refine our efforts and response. And when students and staff raise concerns, we need to be engaging with them to find viable solutions,” Woods said.

Woods also praised districts for their transparency about case counts and quarantines, and addressed schools that choose to shut down over outbreaks.  

“The difficult decision to close down a section of a school or make a shift to online learning should be viewed for what it is — a district following guidelines that were put in place before school started to keep students safe,” Woods said. “To get through this time and make this school year a success, we as Georgians must come together as one.”