Cobb parents plan second rally amid rising school COVID cases

Cobb residents will hold another rally Thursday to encourage the school district to tighten its COVID-19 protocols as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the system.

Dozens of residents rallied last week in support of a mask mandate for students and staff. They were met by a couple dozen of people who want masks to remain optional in the Cobb school district.

With an estimated 107,000 students, Cobb is the second largest district in the state. Masks are optional in the school district, but strongly encouraged.

The district’s latest COVID-19 case numbers show 551 overall school-based cases as of Aug. 13. Broken down, the district on Friday reported 319 active cases in elementary, 91 in middle and 141 in high schools.

ExploreCobb parents clash at rally over school district’s optional mask policy

Thursday’s rally will be held at 6:30 p.m. outside the district’s headquarters at 514 Glover Street in Marietta. It will be followed by the school board’s monthly meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. A work session will be held at 2:30 p.m.

Last week a Cobb school board member shared via email misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and mask wearing to a parent.

Daniela Baker on Aug. 10 emailed the board to criticize how they were handling the pandemic and to share that her daughter contracted the coronavirus about a week after classes began at Nickajack Elementary School.

Board member David Banks responded the following day, telling Baker to “listen to the real truth about masks” and shared a link to a video featuring a doctor sharing false information while speaking to the Mt. Vernon Community Schools board in Indiana.

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Baker, who shared the email with the AJC, said Banks’ response was disheartening because he “offered no assurances” that the district will keep children safe. Baker told the AJC she decided to enroll her daughter into an area private school.

“I was pushed out of a place where I believe my family belongs and I was forced to make a decision I should not have had to make,” she said.

Banks, who sent the video using his official school board email account, did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment. The long-time board member came under fire last year for referring to the coronavirus using a racial slur.

Board members Jaha Howard and Leroy “Tre” Hutchins both said Banks’ response is in contrast to the district’s policy that strongly encourages masks.

“As our vice chair, holding that position requires a higher level of accountability,” Hutchins added.

ExploreCobb school’s fifth grade class goes virtual due to rise in COVID cases

Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn said Banks didn’t violate any board policies, “has not broken the law or done anything immoral.”

Scamihorn said he does not anticipate any discussion on tweaking the district’s COVID-19 protocols at Thursday’s meeting.

Howard said the board chair’s decision not to discuss the district’s mitigation efforts is unfortunate because “it’s the elephant in every room.”

“I think at the very least, families deserve to hear their leaders have an open dialogue about the conditions and the rationale for our superintendent’s strategy,” he said.