Gwinnett County teachers protest district's plan for in-person learning

A divide Thursday night between Gwinnett County parents and teachers on children returning to the classroom next week.

“Teachers have a choice. No one is forcing them to go back to in-person learning,” one parent explained as some in the crowd booed.” 

"It's hard to social distance when the county has run out of desks for their students," Teacher Amy Forehand told school leaders.

Educators expressed their fears and frustrations during Thursday night's school board meeting.

Next week, Kindergarten, 1st, 6th, and 9th-grade students will return to the classroom for in-person learning.

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Administrators told FOX 5 this is only for parents who signed up for that option.

"This is really egregious," Teacher Anthony Downer told FOX 5's Brian Hill. "We're talking about hundreds, if not thousands, of kids will be in the building at a really, really particular time.

Educators said school leaders only informed them Wednesday night of their "Return to In-Person" plan.

It discusses things like their safety plan and investigation into COVID-19 cases.

"The plan released by the county is insufficient. What we need is 100-percent virtual learning," Downer explained.

Community members protesting said if someone on campus contracts the virus, it's damaging to everyone.

"These communities have vulnerable elders, they have people that have preexisting conditions" Samia Abdulle, a community activist and Gwinnett County parent, said.

FOX 5 reported about the nearly 260 GCPS employees testing positive for COVID-19 or quarantining due to possible exposure.

The county’s district health director explained some of the challenges students face by not returning to the classroom.

"The loss of development of social, emotional, and interpersonal skills," Dr. Audrey Arona told board members.

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But teachers said students have been succeeding with virtual learning.

Either way, there will continue to be strong opinions on each side.

One parent believes "the protest is political. You can see by the number of politicians speaking tonight." 

''Temporarily keep us at home until we can return," Forehand said.

Students will return to the classroom on Wednesday, August 26.