Clayton County Schools to start second semester online amid COVID surge

Clayton County Schools will to pivot to remote learning when classes resume Wednesday.

The south metro Atlanta district said Thursday that increasing COVID-19 infections in the county has led it to switch to online learning for all students through Jan. 7. Students will return to school buildings on Jan. 10.

“We have to act with caution and encourage families to participate in the vaccination and testing opportunities available to ensure we can have school with minimal disruptions to the learning process,” Superintendent Morcease Beasley said in a statement.

Clayton’s move comes as communities across metro Atlanta are adjusting access to buildings as the more transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus has surged among residents. Metro Atlantans hoping this week to find out whether they had been exposed to the virus were met with long lines at testing sites.

Parents also are weighing the impact of omicron as schools are set to reopen next week. School systems have split on whether students should wear face masks, with some districts mandating face coverings while others have made them optional.

Clayton has been among the most aggressive districts in trying to keep students and staff safe during the pandemic.

The district was the last in metro Atlanta to return students to school buildings last year, waiting until April to reopen buildings and then only to elementary students. It also has stood firm on a mask mandate as others sought to loosen face covering rules.

The school system, however, also has struggled to keep doors open to classes because of infections. In the first month of the 2021-2022 school year, Clayton pivoted to remote learning at about 20 schools as the delta variant of the coronavirus swept across the nation.

Adamson and Pointe South middle schools switched to remote learning just days before the winter break because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The district reported 113 students and staff members were infected with COVID-19 the week of Dec. 17, according to data posted to its website. Since August, the district has recorded around 1,800 cases.

Beasley said schools will be cleaned while students are learning remotely and the district will make sure mask availability and other safety measures are in place. All middle school and junior varsity athletic events will be cancelled and rescheduled.

Student meals can be picked up at any school from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday through Jan. 7. COVID-19 testing will be available at each school from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. beginning Wednesday.

“By beginning the second semester virtually, it allows employees and students, should they test positive, to complete recommended isolation and quarantine periods in compliance with the new CDC guidance issued,” Beasley said.