Safety ‘top of mind’ for parents as Georgia students head back to school

Thousands of students in counties around the metro Atlanta area will head back to school Monday. That includes students in Atlanta Public Schools and Cobb, Rockdale, Cherokee, Fannin, Lumpkin, Madison, Morgan, Newton, and Paulding counties.

"We’re going into with just thoughts of everything that’s going on … everything that happened last year, everything that’s happened since COVID," APS parent Dianna Paxton said. 

As Paxton and other parents shopped for those last-minute items on their school supply lists, she told FOX 5 she’s also thinking about what safety will look like this year between pandemic-era rules and incidents of shootings on campuses nationwide. 

"It is nerve-racking just to think about what could happen on the first day of school," she admitted. 

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said there are many precautions in place, and they want parents to be comfortable sending their kids back. 

"Our high schools have medal detectors and this year we will be engaging with the community about a clear backpack policy," she said.

In Clayton County, a clear backpack policy is expected to go into effect later this school year. District officials In Cobb County have created a new assistant superintendent of safety initiatives position.

As for COVID-19 guidance, much of it in local school districts is the same as last year. State law prohibits school districts from mandating masks for students so they remain optional. Paxton said she’s comfortable with leaving the decision up to her son. 

"They do test them twice a week, and we think that’s fine…if he’s okay with it I think they’re fine," she said. 

APS is also requiring its staff to be tested weekly.