Clayton County sticking with remote education

Clayton County Schools said on Monday that the district plans to stick with remote learning as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.

Clayton County Schools said on Monday that the district plans to stick with remote learning as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.

Officials with Clayton County’s school system are sticking with remote learning, despite a move by districts across metro Atlanta to allow students a voluntary return to in-person learning.

Leaders of the south metro Atlanta school system said Monday that county coronavirus infection rates have grown to 542 cases per 100,000 people at the end of last week — up from 106 cases per 100,000 in October.

The district has maintained it would open only if infection rates dropped below 100 cases per 100,000 people over six consecutive weeks.

“We understand the challenges with virtual learning. We understand the childcare issues. We all understand we’re dealing with things that we had not planned to deal with because of this pandemic,” Superintendent Morcease Beasley said. “But we think it is appropriate to be consistent.”

Clayton’s decision comes as Atlanta Public Schools and DeKalb County Schools, the only other two large districts that had not offered in-person classes so far this academic year, have said they plan to open schools this month for those who want face-to-face instruction.

DeKalb’s reopening has been particularly controversial as some parents and teachers have said it is unsafe to return to class and criticized the district for contradicting its own reopening guidelines. DeKalb Schools officials had said they would not open until infection cases were consistently below 100 per 100,000 people over at least two consecutive weeks.

More recently the district said positivity rates in the county should be as low as 10% over two weeks in order to open. That number was 13.2% over the past 14 days, according to the Georgia Department of Health.

Students in neighboring Henry County, which has been open to in-class instruction for weeks, will return to all-remote learning when classes resume Monday. The change is temporary, with in-class learning to restart at the end of the month.

That change comes after Henry teachers held a memorial service Monday for a Stockbridge Elementary School educator who died at the end of last year from COVID-19. The teachers met with leaders of the school to express their concerns about safety while teaching in person.

Clayton County Board of Education chairwoman Jessie Goree said she also is concerned about reports of a second strain of COVID-19 circulating in some parts of the nation, and getting school staff vaccinated.

“The reality is we are only going to get through this if we look at the numbers and look at science,” she said.