Cobb County schools to return to all-virtual learning next week

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Cobb County schools will go all virtual next week as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Georgia.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale announced Friday that increasing numbers of students and staff members are in quarantine.

“In order to lessen the transition of additional schools on a continual basis and allow for a quarantine period for staff and students, I will be announcing today that we will be moving to a 100% virtual environment through Friday, January 22,” Ragsdale wrote in a letter to staff.

Teachers and staff are asked to instruct virtually from home. Face-to-face learning is set to resume on Jan. 25.

[SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Vaccine in Georgia]

“This is the most difficult environment that we have ever faced, but everyone has risen to the occasion to ensure that our students have received the excellent education that our teachers have always provided,” Ragsdale said in a statement.

Last week, several Cobb County teachers told Channel 2 Action News that they were concerned about the return to face-to-face learning.

Channel 2′s Cobb County Bureau Chief Chris Jose was in Marietta Friday, where teachers told him they are relieved, but Connie Jackson with the Cobb County Association of Educators said she doesn’t think that one week is enough.

“As long as the numbers are as high as they are in the general public, there’s no way we should be back in person,” Jackson said.

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Dr. Jaha Howard with the Cobb Board of Educators said that she is glad Ragsdale made the tough decision.

“I just wanted to express to him that I believe this was the right call,” Howard said.

Student Sophie Person said she hopes it doesn’t last longer than a week.

“There were a couple times I broke down crying at my computer because it wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure it out,” Person said. “I just couldn’t deal with it.”

On Tuesday, Cobb County’s top public health doctor advised parents to go to virtual learning if they can.

“Cases are extremely high. The hospitals have been busier than they ever been. They are stretched. They are very much stretched right now,” Dr. Janet Memark said. “We really are at a breaking point. We’ve got to bring this down somehow. So I’m asking everybody to help us.”

At least one Cobb County teacher has died of COVID-19.

Patrick Key was an elementary school art teacher in Cobb County for 23 years. He died from COVID-19 on Christmas day.

“We will never forget Patrick Key,” Howard said. “We have incredible educators, and to lose one is incredibly heartbreaking.”

The Cobb Schools Foundation has created the Patrick Key Memorial Art Scholarship in his honor.

“We will not allow his name to be swallowed up in the craziness of COVID,” Howard said.

[LINK: Where to find the COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia]