DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Steven Morales, of Brookhaven, is one of 80 DeKalb County School District parents who pitched in to pay for six billboards with the hashtag "OpenOurSchools." The billboards bear a direct message to Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris and the school board and expressed opposition to the proposed one day a week in class in favor of full-time face-to-face learning.
"We're hoping to get a more realistic plan for the school reopening. If you look at some of the surrounding counties that are comparable in demographics, they're in the process of reopening, including Fulton County Schools that reopened five days a week starting today. We want to know why we're not given the same choice," Morales told FOX 5's Portia Bruner Wednesday.
Morales and his wife have a daughter in kindergarten. And like many parents, they believe putting off in-class instruction--even in the COVID-19 pandemic-- is harmful to long-term academic success.
"When you see your child struggling and trying to learn to read and go through the critical steps for kindergarten, that's what we're running into and the current plan put into place by our superintendent does not get us back in school more than one day a week until the end of the year possibly," said Morales.
Kirstie Young and her husband have a 6th grader at DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts and a 10th grader at Tucker High School. They believe the school district actually gone too far with its plans to move students back into the classroom once a week as early as November. Like many parents, she says there's just not enough information about what the school district can realistically do to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"In terms of cleaning the schools, that's not necessarily been laid out. The only thing that is concrete is that students would wear facemasks every day but then there's still not a structure," said Young, whose two older children also graduated from DeKalb schools.
The Youngs plan to keep their sons in the virtual learning platform, but Kirste worries one day a week in school will be hard for other students and teachers to manage.
"How productive can it be? Students have been away. Teachers have been away. There will be excitement. And if teachers are still expected to do virtual, as well as in class, it's just not fair. If the teachers don't feel comfortable, I don't think they're going to be as effective as they could be," Young added.
But Morales said one day a week isn't fair for parents and students who want more options.
"I'm comfortable with my daughter going back. The cases are going down. Obviously, I don't want to send my daughter back to school in an unsafe environment. And I'm not here to have the no mask or pro mask debate. I just want whatever it takes to get her back to school and back in school safe is definitely what we want and we expect DeKalb to do that," Morales said.
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