Teachers concerned, left in limbo over going back to school during COVID-19 pandemic

Teachers concerned, left in limbo over going back to school during COVID-19 pandemic

ATLANTA — Teachers say they have many concerns over COVID-19 heading into the new school year.

The pandemic has left many teachers in limbo about what to do.

While a group representing pediatricians is saying that kids need to return to school, educators are still trying to figure out how it will work and what the risks will be.

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“I don’t think we have complete answers to guide our teachers to go back to school, (or) stay at home, to embrace online learning. There are a lot of questions that remain, and the next two weeks will be critical,” said Joe Fleming, lobbyist for the Georgia Association of Educators.

With just weeks before students return to a school in some capacity, the plans for that return in 180 districts are still muddy.

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“There’s so many questions to be answered,” Fleming said.

Not every district in Georgia surveyed educators to craft reopening plans, and those plans differ in many ways, from structure to health requirements.

In Clayton County, an alternating calendar day week will take place, but no masks will be required.

“Because we know that we can’t fiscally sustain requiring 55,000 students every day to wear a mask,” said Dr. Morcease Beasley, superintendent of Clayton County Schools.

“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?” asked father Tony McCrear.

Other districts, like Cobb and Gwinnett counties, are giving parents until early July to choose online or in-person instruction.

That will dictate how many teachers and staff member are needed in the buildings.

Fulton County and Atlanta Public Schools are expected to announce concrete plans in the coming weeks.

Rockdale County is pushing back its school start date to September to sort things out.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending in-person learning, citing the importance of academic, mental, social and nutritional health, and current research suggesting kids’ potential to suffer from and spread the disease remain low.

“A billion dollars out of public education is going to hurt and it occurs at a time where we might need additional funding just for the PPE, for sanitation equipment. Perhaps we’re going to have to hire more custodians. There are a variety of questions that kind of linger,” Fleming said.

Fleming added that he wants his own kids to return but is still weighing the health risks with rising COVID-19 numbers.

The GAE is anxiously awaiting a plan from the department of education that Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered.

It will basically be solid blueprint for Georgia school reopening recommendations, but it’s expected to available just two weeks before many districts welcome students back.

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