Gwinnett Schools push back start date, will require masks

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — UPDATE: Gwinnett Schools have extended the deadline to choose in-person or virtual learning. Parents have through Sunday July 12.

Gwinnett County Public Schools made two big decisions regarding its back to school plans during special meeting Tuesday.

The state’s largest school district said it is pushing back its start date from Aug. 5 to Aug. 12 and will make masks mandatory.

All employees, students and visitors will be required to wear masks with exceptions given for health reasons.

[COUNTY-BY-COUNTY: Plans for returning to school this fall]

“If a student is not willing to wear a mask or face covering, he or she should consider digital learning. Accommodations will be made for students or employees unable to wear a mask for documented health reasons,” the district said in a release.

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks also announced in person graduations planned for Class of 2020 have been canceled. Wilbanks said he just didn’t think it would be safe .

“In making these decisions, the Board and school district staff did their due diligence and reviewed all relevant information concerning our people’s health, safety, and educational needs,” Wilbanks said. “We balanced what we learned in that review with what we heard from parents and our employees in the feedback we asked them to provide. Ultimately, we made our decisions based on what we believe is in the overall best interest of the district’s students, families, and staff. In the weeks to come, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Gwinnett County and, if necessary, will revise our plans as conditions warrant.”

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Gwinnett County previously announced part of its back to school plan last week. Parents have the choice whether to send them to school or have them continue with online learning.

Every parent must make a decision by July 10 or their student will automatically be assigned in-person instruction.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas spoke with several parents Tuesday before the meeting.

Kellie Fernander has a split household with one child wanting digital learning and the other to return to classes.

It’s a debate in many homes as the start of school quickly approaches.

Ken Schantz told Thomas that weeks of digital learning was tough on his family.

“Digital learning isn’t at a point where my kids would get the same education they would if they were at school,” he said.

Schantz wants his three kids back in the classroom, including his 5th grade Kinsley.

“I’d rather go to school because I don’t really like online school because you don’t really learn anything,” Kinsley said.

Before today’s meeting, school board member Everton Blair proposed delaying the start of school until after Labor Day.

“I do not think we should reopen schools for in-person instruction,” Blair wrote in an online post.”

Along with mandating masks, Blair also wants frequent testing and temperature checks. So far, Gwinnett is only self-monitoring.

“Their health and safety is more important than my sanity at this point,” Fernander said.