Cobb parents plan protest, demand in-person classes for students

Cobb County parents will hold a protest Saturday at 10 a.m. to call on the school district to offer an in-classroom option for students returning to class on Aug. 17.
Cobb County parents will hold a protest Saturday at 10 a.m. to call on the school district to offer an in-classroom option for students returning to class on Aug. 17.

Cobb County parents will protest the school district’s plans to open the 2020-21 school year with a virtual-only option when classes resume next month.

Members of the Let Parents Choose Facebook group will hold the protest at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta. These parents want Superintendent Chris Ragsdale and the Cobb school board to offer a face-to-face option for students returning to the classroom Aug. 17.

They are circulating a petition calling for the reinstatement of traditional classroom teaching that has received nearly 7,200 signatures. The Cobb County School District is the second largest in the state with about 113,000 students.

READ | Here’s how metro Atlanta school districts are starting the school year

Brenda Lloyd, who has two children in the school district, said having a virtual-only option is “not good for the kids” since it could exacerbate mental health issues many are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a taxpayer, Lloyd said she and other parents have a right to make their own choices about whether their children should go back to school or continue remote learning.

“Virtual is just one choice and it’s not one-size-fits-all,” she said. “It doesn’t work for everybody. “We don’t want to remove anybody’s rights. We just want the rights back.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached out to Ragsdale and the Cobb school district for comment. Ragsdale did not respond to that request, but district spokeswoman Nan Kiel told the AJC that all teachers, principals and leaders in the district want to return to face-to-face learning as soon as its safe to do so.

“Until public health guidance and data for Cobb County says it is safe, our teachers will be teaching and our students will be learning remotely,” she said.

Cobb County schools in March used remote learning to close out the 2019-2020 school year. The district, along with Gwinnett, DeKalb and Fulton, all originally offered parents the choice of face-to-face or virtual learning when the new school year begins. However, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, all decided to start the year with only remote teaching. Marietta City and Atlanta Public schools also decided to only offer virtual-only classes.

RELATED | Parents want school districts to offer face-to-face option for students

As of Tuesday, Cobb County had 10,538 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 1,240 hospitalizations and 294 deaths, the Cobb & Douglas Public Health Department said. Dr. Janet Memark, district health director for the two counties, said in a July 28 email that she hopes the number of cases will begin to drop, but “it takes a little longer to get a clear picture of conditions” due to the lag in test results.

“We are seeing an uptick in deaths in Cobb County, which usually lags around other indicators,” the doctor said. “Area hospitals continue to be very busy with COVID cases and intensive care beds.”

Memark and Cobb school board members will participate Thursday in a virtual forum on COVID-19 hosted by Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid. The forum starts at 6:30 p.m. and registration is required to view the event.

RELATED | Gwinnett parents rally for option to send students to in-person classes

Cobb County School Board member Dr. Jaha Howard, who said on his Facebook page that he, his wife and children all were diagnosed with COVID-19, said he understands the frustration of not having a face-to-face option.

However, he said there’s an opportunity to redirect that energy into holding state leaders accountable for their response to the pandemic. Howard, who owns a pediatric dentistry business, said it will take collective action to bring COVID-19 numbers down to where it will be safe for children to return to the classroom.

“What we are dealing with is hard and we have to take it very seriously,” he said. “It’s going to take all of us, despite our differences, to tackle it.”

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