DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - After a series of delays, DeKalb County Schools announced it is planning to return to in-person learning on March 9.
The announcement came during Tuesday’s "State of the District" meeting. DeKalb County School Superintendent Cheryl Watson Harris said the decision to transition both hybrid and in-person was based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent guidelines and the dropping COVID-19 numbers in Georgia.
"We are poised to provide the option for face-to-face instruction for our families who would like that option," said the superintendent.
Many parents, teachers, and students attended the event that the district titled "The Drive-In Celebration. "
"I would like to know what we celebrating," said Verdaillia Turner, Georgia Teacher Federation President.
This comes as controversy continues to plague the district about overall health safety in schools during the pandemic. Even though students are still learning virtually, it was just three weeks ago that teachers protested because they had to return to school.
"We don’t think the schools are as safe as they could be," said Turner.
"I’m disappointed because our teachers need to be vaccinated and our communities are fragile," said one parent who attended the event.
But some are optimistic.
"I think we can do it safely," said parent Jessica Lawrence. "The CDC has said if we follow the guidelines, we can be in school."
"We have been one of the most conservative school systems in our response to the pandemic," said Superintendent Watson-Harris. "But we are ready to welcome our scholars back in the building."
Pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, sixth grade, and ninth-grade students will begin in-person learning on Tuesday, March 9. Grades three, fourth, fifth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth will start on Monday, March 15.
"I am excited about the return to face-to-face instruction," Superintendent Watson-Harris said. "This has been a tough, but necessary decision. We will continue to make the safety of our scholars and staff our number one priority and soar together."
"Superintendent Watson-Harris will effectively outline the impact of COVID-19 as well as the goals of the district," said DeKalb Board of Education Chair Mrs. Vickie Turner. "I am grateful for the very diligent and thoughtful work that has been demonstrated by this staff along with the leadership team. It goes without question, virtual learning has presented some serious challenges to our students, our families and our staff. The Superintendent is to be commended for facing those challenges head-on and coming up with viable solutions that will ultimately benefit our students. As we move forward with the hybrid plan and re-opening of schools, we will follow every evidence-based recommendation to keep our teachers and students safe."
"Superintendent Watson-Harris has worked tirelessly to lead the school district through the pandemic and continues to improve the District," said DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond. "DeKalb Government supports her efforts to eliminate barriers to success so that our students will continue to excel."
Social distancing and mask-wearing will be strictly enforced while on campus.
The district has attempted to begin in-person learning twice this year, once at the start of the New Year and once at the start of February, but the coronavirus case numbers were too high at the time. The state's positivity rate has fallen below 10% for the first time since November, Gov. Brian Kemp announced late last week.
Any parents who feel uncomfortable sending their children to school will still have the option of continuing to have them learn virtually. Employees who qualify for accommodation under the Americans with Disability Act will have the option to telework, but in order to do so, they must complete an application and provide medical certification.
For more information, parents can visit https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/school-reopening.
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