Clayton County to begin face-to-face classes in April

Clayton County Schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley announced the return of in-school classes for elementary students on Tuesday. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Clayton County Schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley announced the return of in-school classes for elementary students on Tuesday. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Clayton County, one of two metro Atlanta school systems to stick with all-remote learning so far this year, is bringing its youngest students back to classes in April.

Superintendent Morcease Beasley said Tuesday that children in Pre-K to 5th grade can opt to return to class for face-to-face instruction on April 12. Initially, the first two weeks of class will follow a hybrid schedule where the students, separated in Group A and Group B, come to school on alternating days.

On April 26, all Pre-K through 5-graders will have the option of coming to class every day.

Students in grades six through 12 will continue to learn remotely. The last day of school is May 25.

“Those of you who are in secondary school, six through 12, be patient, continue to work virtually, and we’ll let you know when your schedule will change or when we will transition you back face to face,” Beasley said during a YouTube Live presentation.

Clayton’s decision -- which also brings back special education students of all ages -- comes as positive COVID-19 cases in the county are trending downward, but have yet to hit the level Beasley has insisted for months would be required to open schools safely. He said Tuesday that the number of coronavirus positives have dropped to 272 cases per 100,000 residents from as high as 700 cases.

But that is still above the goal of 100 cases or fewer per 100,000 residents that Beasley said would enable a safe return.

If Clayton moves forward, it will be the last metro Atlanta school system to offer students a return to face-to-face instruction this academic year.

DeKalb County Schools, which also has stuck with all virtual learning, is bringing Pre-K- through second-graders and sixth- to ninth-graders back to schools on Tuesday. Those in the third through fifth grades, seventh through eighth grades and 10th through 12th grades will return March 15.

To gauge the number of Clayton students likely to take the face-to-face option, parents will be required to fill out a survey on whether they want in-person or remote instruction, Beasley said. The survey must be turned in by March 10.

“If the parent or parents do not complete the survey, we will assume that your children will return face to face,” he said of the questionnaire.

Beasley said elementary school teachers and all district staff in non-teaching positions will be required to come back to work March 22. By then he hopes many will have been vaccinated.

“Vaccines are slated to be administered starting March 8,” he said, adding that getting the shots will not be mandatory. “However, employees are encouraged to be vaccinated.”

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