As metro Atlanta districts end school year, CDC releases guidelines for reopening

ATLANTA — It’s the last day of school for Gwinnett and Cobb counties, and most other metro Atlanta school districts will wrap up by Friday, but already there are some guidelines for reopening schools in the fall.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control issued updated COVID-19 guidelines Wednesday for the best way to resume classes while protecting students and teachers.

The CDC classified the return to school in three different risk levels.

  • Low risk is digital learning and virtual classrooms.
  • Medium risk is small in-person classes that stay isolated as a unit with the same teacher all day. Students don’t share any objects and remain six feet apart.
  • High risk is the traditional school we all know - full size classes with various activities and shared classroom materials.

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The CDC described several strategies for slowing the spread of COVID-19 if state and local leaders decide to resume more traditional schooling in the fall. Including standard hand washing techniques and masks for teachers and students, the CDC offered guidelines on maintaining a safe, clean school building.

They include:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in the school and on buses at least daily.
  • Limiting the use of shared art supplies, toys and gym equipment.
  • Keeping each child’s belongings separated from others or limiting the use of supplies to one group of a time between cleanings.
  • Ensure ventilation systems are operating and there is circulation of outdoor air.
  • Space seats and desks at least six feet apart. Turn desks that face each other to face the same direction or have children sit on one side of a table.
  • Create space on buses by keeping one child per row and skipping rows if possible.
  • Install barriers and sneeze guards where needed, like in offices, or tape lines on floors or sidewalks.
  • Close all communal spaces like cafeterias, dining halls and playgrounds.
  • Have children bring their own meals or serve individually plated meals in classrooms with disposable utensils.
  • Setting staggered arrival and drop-of times to limit contact between students and parents.

The recommendations also include replacing field trips with virtual field trips and not allowing visitors into the building.

There are also recommendations on what to do if someone has COVID-19 and how to notify staff and parents.

The first school districts back in Georgia come as early as late July, but there has been no official ruling on whether students will be allowed to return to their buildings when the new school year starts.

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