DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - The principal of a metro Atlanta school that's had no cases of COVID-19 urges families to use caution as the holiday season approaches. The staff and students at St. Thomas More have successfully dodged the respiratory virus and one parent credit the stringent protocols in place at the school.
"I cannot feel more at peace that my daughter is here. They are wearing masks, they are getting their temperature checked at morning carpool and again at lunchtime. Hand sanitizer is in every classroom," said Kristin Pettus, whose daughter started Kindergarten in person in August.
"Specialty teachers like music and Spanish come into the classroom so that the kids aren't having to do a lot of moving around and walking through the campus. I could not feel more at peace. They are doing everything right here," said Pettus.
Students stay within their homeroom pods to help with coronavirus contact tracing if necessary--but so far, that hasn't been an issue at the Catholic school in Decatur.
"As far as actual cases of COVID from students here, we haven't had any yet and I almost don't want to say that but we've been so fortunate. It’s prayer and its hard work," said Principal Shaun Bland.
Principal Bland admits she was nervous at the beginning of the school year but implemented several protocols based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines--including a stringent cleaning process, socially distant classroom settings, mandatory masks, and managing lunchtime as carefully as possible.
"Lunchtime is a risk and they are eating in the classroom, not the cafeteria in a communal setting. They're bringing their own lunches in so we're not collecting silverware or trays," said Bland. "Whenever we can, we just try to have the students eat outside."
St. Pius X in Chamblee. (FOX 5)
St. Pius, which is one of the high schools in the Atlanta Archdiocese, had an outbreak of COVID-19 cases after as many as 80 sophomores reportedly attended an off-campus Halloween party. The infections forced the school into a virtual platform. Superintendent Hall Plummer reminded families of that incident in a letter this week. Principal Bland hopes the message will resonate with families over the Thanksgiving holiday.
"We don't want to let each other down. We have seen that it only takes one person and the domino effect can cause a great deal of problems," said Bland, who credits St. Thomas More's lack of infections to diligent mask usage, among other things. "If you're not willing to wear a mask, I mean everyone wearing a mask, then you are really are setting yourself up to be exposed," said Bland.