Fulton County ready to welcome all grades back full time

Fulton County ready to welcome all grades back full time

ATLANTA — Fulton County School officials said Tuesday they expect roughly 60 percent of students to return to class for traditional face-to-face learning when they have the option starting Wednesday, with the rest remaining at home for continued virtual learning.

Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik spoke one-on-one with Superintendent Mike Looney Tuesday about his decision to reopen the district.

“We’re enthusiastic about our students returning to school,” Looney told Petchenik. “Obviously we have some apprehension because of the unknown.”

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Looney told Petchenik he stands by his decision to reopen the district based on the data provided by the Fulton County Board of Health.

“I think we’re being very consistent with what other folks are doing,” he said. “Of course there’s always concern opening because we’re in the midst of a pandemic.”

Under Looney’s plan, the district could move to full-time traditional classes once the COVID-19 community spread level averaged at below 100 cases per 100,000.

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However, in the most recent county report, roughly half of the cities in the district’s footprint remained above that level.

“Is there a concern opening in those areas?” Petchenik asked.

“Everything we do as a school system is district level,” Looney replied. “So it’s very difficult to localize an opening decision.”

Looney said once the district “turned on” traditional school, it will handle any COVID-19 outbreaks on a classroom-by-classroom and school-by-school basis.

“We’ve done everything we can practically do to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” he said.

Looney said the district has provided masks to all teachers and face shields to those who request them.

According to documents provided to the school board Tuesday, more high school students plan to stay home compared to elementary schoolers, which Looney said would initially help with class sizes.

“That means class sizes generally will be smaller, less students in the hallway,” he said.

Looney told Petchenik kid will be required to wear masks, and he said if parents choose to send their children back mid-semester, they will have that option, though it could alter staffing at schools.

Still, some teachers told Petchenik they’re still concerned about their safety returning. One, who asked Petchenik not to name her, said she’s worried about exposure.

“It’s very disconcerting seeing all the students and they’re coming into my room, not knowing their circumstances,” she said. “I feel kind of like a sitting duck.”

Another, who teaches elementary school in South Fulton County, told Petchenik she didn’t sign up for this.

“We’re putting our lives on the line,” she said. “I understand children want their kids in school. We want them in school to, but we want them there safely.”

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