Fulton County Schools has been dedicated to providing a face-to-face option for our students since last fall. Providing vaccinations for our employees was a critical step toward that goal and the long-term success in managing the COVID pandemic in our community, not just our schools. I place the safety of our employees and students at the forefront of my decisions.
The temporary switch to remote learning after spring break was also necessary to help mitigate an expected spike in cases after the holiday. We have and continue to believe in-person instruction by a dedicated educator is the best way to move forward.
In the last few weeks, I’ve attended a half dozen panels and webinars on what school ought to look like in the fall and how districts ought to use their federal COVID relief aid. Some public education advocates contend this is the moment to remake schools. They outline ambitious agendas in which schools will not only accelerate student learning but root out racism and create greater equity in curriculum and teaching and student discipline.
Many of these advocates used to teach but left their classrooms for think tanks, advocacy organizations and public policy foundations. As I find with former journalists, these ex-teachers offer a lot of advice for those still in the field about how they can do more and do better.
One of the exceptions this week was Stephen L. Pruitt, a former chemistry teacher in Fayette County who moved to the Georgia Department of Education, served as Kentucky’s state commissioner of education, and now leads the Southern Regional Education Board. During a webinar on the federal relief aid, Pruitt said school districts must have a two-prong approach to healing the pain and losses of the pandemic.
Yes, he agreed schools must deal with student trauma caused by COVID-19, as well as the traumas some children faced before the virus upended their lives. But Pruitt also said, “Our teachers have had just as tough a year as anybody, arguably harder than a lot of folks. We have to set up structures to support their social and emotional needs so they can turn around and support students.”
What we don’t need to set up are signs disparaging teachers and criticizing efforts to vaccinate school staffs, a vital step to keep classrooms open for in-person learning.