Schools in DeKalb County, Decatur reopen after water main break

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Schools in DeKalb County and Decatur reopened Thursday morning after a massive water main break forced the districts to send students home early.

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The break happened sometime around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday but the impact wasn't felt by many until the school day got underway. All DeKalb County elementary schools released students at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, followed by DeKalb County high schools dismissing students at 11:15 a.m. DeKalb County middle schools let students leave at 12:15 a.m. All after-school programs and activities were also canceled.

By 6 p.m., the decision by both school districts came down that classes would resume Thursday with some exceptions to how sanitation and food preparations will be handled.

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“We have been in constant dialogue with our partners at DeKalb County and the DeKalb County Board of Health. Following that consultation, we will reopen our campuses while taking great care to ensure we have a healthy learning environment,” said Superintendent, CEO R. Stephen Green. “We have a good plan that covers sanitation, food service and other aspects of our operations impacted by the water event today. We’ll be ready for our students.”

“As importantly, we ask each of our partners and patrons to contribute or donate water, and perhaps hand sanitizers, directly to our campuses,” Green added. “For many reasons, having an abundant supply of drinking water throughout the day is important.“ 

DeKalb County Schools said they will take the following steps as students return to class:

  • Flushing the water sources at campuses and offices. Custodians and maintenance staff will begin to flush all toilets and sinks to release water impacted by the boil order. This process will continue throughout the day.
  • Covering sinks and water fountains. This will prevent use by building occupants as the water system is flushed.
  • Importing fresh drinking water. The district will bring in water for food preparation, consumption, and handwashing. DCSD is also seeking assistance from business, churches and community partners in providing bottled water for students. Parents are also encouraged to send their child to school with bottled water, if able.
  • Using hand sanitizer to keep avoid contamination. The district will provide additional sanitizer to each campus. Parents are also encouraged to send their child to school with sanitizer.
  • Providing nutritious lunches per Georgia food service regulations. The district will avoid providing meals that require the use of water in preparation. Students will receive a modified prepackaged breakfast/snack. The district will also provide a lunch consisting of water-free preparation such as a sandwich, tossed salad, and other similar foods.
  • Working with the Board of Health. DCSD is committed to following regulations governing loss of water service in its schools. The partnership between the Health Board and DCSD will provide the safest, healthiest environment for students.

Decatur Schools also suggested having students bring a full water bottle to school Thursday. Officials said bottle water will be in limited supply at the school, so they are asking parents to send their child with bottled water.

The district also said they will be serving meals as normal, but may make changes to the menu to make it easier on the cafeteria staff during the boil water notice.

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