More than 100 parents and students rallied at Piedmont Park on Sunday and urged Atlanta and DeKalb County to reopen schools and resume in-person classes.

Lining 10th Street and holding signs with messages like “Virtual school is depressing” and “School not screens,” the families said they were frustrated with Atlanta Public Schools’ and DeKalb County Public Schools’ decisions to continue holding virtual classes. They said their children’s education has suffered in the virtual format, while making life difficult for working parents.

“I feel like there’s a safe way to bring these kids back to school. They can find a way,” said Yimeka Robbins, whose son is in the first grade at The GLOBE Academy in DeKalb County. She described their virtual learning experience as “awful” and “frustrating.”

The Committee for APS Progress, which organized Sunday’s rally, is pushing for the school districts to give parents the choice of whether to send their children back into the classroom, with COVID-19 safety precautions in place.

Several public school districts in the metro area, including Fulton and Gwinnett counties, have taken that step this fall. In Fulton County schools, officials said the return to in-person classes has gone relatively well, although some schools have had to temporarily close because of COVID-19 outbreaks.

“It feels a little deflating, because we are the same county, the same data,” said Stacie Morrison, a member of the Committee for APS Progress, referring to Fulton County Schools and APS. Morrison’s son is in kindergarten at Morningside Elementary School. “They’ve obviously come up with a plan that is working for them, so why can’t we emulate their plan?”

As cases continue to rise in metro Atlanta, APS and DeKalb have both said they will offer in-person classes when coronavirus rates drop below 100 infections per 100,000 people for 14 straight days. Both Fulton and DeKalb reported more than 300 confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Parents at the rally said those metrics are unrealistic and pointed to some studies showing schools are not major drivers of community transmission of the coronavirus.

Last week, APS announced dates for a proposed reopening of buildings, starting in late January. DeKalb is expected to discuss the issue at a school board meeting Monday. The district recently extended the deadline for families to choose whether their children will be learning in person or remotely once buildings reopen.

“This is not a perfect situation, but we also have to do something,” said Joel Iverson, whose four sons are taking virtual classes at E. Rivers Elementary School in Atlanta.

His oldest son, Oliver, hasn’t enjoyed participating in classes over Zoom.

“It’s been pretty hard, ‘cause it’s sort of hard to stay focused when you’re just looking at a screen,” the fourth-grader said. “I just miss getting to see my friends.”

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