DeKalb Schools: 80 students, employees recently test positive for COVID-19

Eighty DeKalb County School District employees and student-athletes have tested positive for the coronavirus since July 1, Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris announced Monday during the school board’s monthly meeting.

Twenty-two of the 66 teachers who tested positive did so last week, Watson-Harris said. The district delayed the start of the school year from Aug. 3 to Aug. 17, after Georgia’s infection rate began to rise after the state eased restrictions and allowed restaurants and other businesses to reopen.

“We feel confident in our decision to begin school Aug. 17 in a virtual space,” Watson-Harris said, citing the increase in positive coronavirus cases.

Included in the 80 positive coronavirus tests are 14 student-athletes who tested positive since July 1, as fall sports practices began ahead of the school year.

The reported numbers are the district’s first comprehensive acknowledgement that the virus has impacted students and employees. District officials have announced few instances in which a student or employee has tested positive for the virus since March 12, the last day students were physically taught in classrooms. The district announced when an employee tested positive in late March.

Dunwoody and Lakeside high schools suspended practices for some sports after students tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks. Those instances were only confirmed after requests for information by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Watson-Harris said Monday that no decision has been made as to whether fall sports will continue as scheduled, noting the district was consulting with local health department officials and following Georgia High School Association guidance on beginning respective seasons.

“Our intention is not to just cut off (sports), but it’s clear the data is telling us we have to do something,” Watson-Harris said. “There appears to be a trend. An uptick. We know it’s community spread at this point.”

As work continues to start the new school year on Monday utilizing virtual learning platforms, Watson-Harris said plans are being made about the future of the year.

“While we’re aggressively planning for a strong high-quality virtual experience,” she said, “we’re also beginning to plan for reopening when it is safe to do so.”