More Fulton students learning remotely; district changes COVID reporting

Fulton County Schools increasing COVID-19 cases have teachers concerned

Fulton County Schools increasing COVID-19 cases have teachers concerned

Fulton County Schools will now be updating the public twice a week on the status of COVID-19 in the 95,000-student district, and more students have chosen to learn online instead of in-person.

School leaders announced during a Tuesday work session the reporting change and said there is now roughly a 50-50 split between in-person and online learners.

“The cases are going up at this point in time,” said Superintendent Mike Looney.

With a few schools intermittently closing to stop growing spreads, he said there are still many questions about their procedure.

“This is a complex process and there continues to be confusion,” he said.

That’s why, he said, the district will move from reporting cases on only Mondays to Mondays and Thursdays. And instead of showing 14-day trends, the district will publish the numbers of positive cases and people quarantined.

The latest data from the district shows that, from Oct. 26 to Nov. 8, there were 94 positive cases and 909 people quarantined as a result of school cases or cases reporting via the district’s portal.

The methods and frequency of school-age COVID-19 reporting has been an issue, with some parents statewide feeling left in the dark while making big decisions.

Similarly, some Fulton teachers during an early phase of re-opening walked out during their lunch breaks in protest because they felt bringing back students was unsafe.

Fulton County Schools re-opened classrooms in multiple phases, eventually inviting all students back on Oct. 14. But the district has continued to offer online learning as an option for families who are uncomfortable with face-to-face learning.

On Oct. 14, about 60% of students came back into classrooms, with the rest learning online. But that has changed.

Fulton’s head of academics said Tuesday that 52% are learning in person, while 48% have elected to learn online.

The data shows that the highest rates of families choosing to learn in person are in the county’s north, and that Black and Asian families have chosen to learn online in higher rates.

Anyone who enters a school must wear a mask, including visitors, Looney said.

School board member Linda McCain said she’s heard that some teachers are angry at people sending children to schools while they’re awaiting results from a COVID-19 test — or worse.

“We have had some individuals unfortunately who have tested positive (come to school) … I can’t conceive of exposing other people to this,” Looney said.

He went on: “We will not be able to remain open if people continue to do that type of thing."

So what about that prospect of shutting down all schools again?

Looney said there’s no benchmark for physically closing the entire district.

“The answer is no, unless in consultation with health officials they make that recommendation,” he said. “ ... Our health officials believe we’re on the right path.”

Credit: WSBTV Videos