DeKalb superintendent delays reopening, addresses parent concerns and teacher fears
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - DeKalb County Schools superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris said she has taken hits from parents on both sides of the debate over when to resume classroom instruction in a COVID-19 pandemic. Watson-Harris, who just took over the district in July, said input from parents must be measured against hard coronavirus data.
"When we are below or out of the severe community spread, we will begin our return to face-to-face instruction," Watson-Harris told FOX 5's Portia Bruner.
For DeKalb Schools, that means there must be 100 or fewer cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents for 14 days before district officials will reopen schools for face-to-face instruction. Virtual learning will remain an option for parents who do not want to send their students to school.
"We review the data every day and while we review the data, we are preparing for a full return to school. We cannot promise that we are going to agree with or please everyone, but what we are going to do is make a commitment to keep our students and our staff safe," she said. My hope is for DeKalb students to get back to school as quickly as possible and we will do that when the data suggests that we are no longer in a severe community spread."
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Before the districts 102,000 students have the option to return to class, teachers, administrators and staff will have to report first--followed by students two weeks later.
Watson Harris says she's aware that's a source of frustration and anxiety for those who are reluctant to return to work in a pandemic. She says teachers have already been asked to do a lot managing virtual instruction.
"They've been absolutely amazing and they should be applauded and respected in terms of their own fears of coming back. That's why we have that two week time where they will be able to come back and get re-acclimated to their building as well provide counseling."
The superintendent says the district's two COVID-19 task forces have followed CDC guidelines to ensure a rigid cleaning routine is established at all of the schools. And she says provisions are being made for safe dinning, hallway transitions and dismissal.
"Masks will be required for everyone. We've had a lot of donations. We'll have the ability to provide masks to anyone who doesn't have one," she said.
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Watson-Harris said she's aware of the struggles teachers with children of their own must juggle, but says provisions will be made for those men and women as well.
"I encourage any teacher who has that concern to reach out to their HR specialist and see what other allowances we may have in place to make sure they are not effected with any kind of undue hardship. We cannot promise that we are going to agree with or please everyone, but what we are going to do is make a commitment to keep our students and our staff safe," she said.
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