Two-thirds of DeKalb students continue with remote learning option

03/09/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — John R. Lewis Elementary School music teacher Elena Prestwood welcomes a student wearing a face shield and a face mask into the school building on the first day of in-person learning at the school in Atlanta, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
03/09/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — John R. Lewis Elementary School music teacher Elena Prestwood welcomes a student wearing a face shield and a face mask into the school building on the first day of in-person learning at the school in Atlanta, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

A majority of DeKalb County students continue to learn remotely a year after the district closed schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A school district spokeswoman said parents of 32,754 students selected the face-to-face option offered earlier this month. That leaves a little more than 60,000 of DeKalb’s 93,000 students who continue to learn remotely.

A billboard calling on DeKalb school distict leaders to offer a more robust in-person learning option, paid for by a group of DeKalb County parents, is seen on DeKalb Industrial Way in Decatur, Georgia, on Oct. 16, 2020. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
A billboard calling on DeKalb school distict leaders to offer a more robust in-person learning option, paid for by a group of DeKalb County parents, is seen on DeKalb Industrial Way in Decatur, Georgia, on Oct. 16, 2020. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright

Credit: Rebecca Wright

The school district on March 9 reopened classrooms to prekindergarten through second grade, sixth- and ninth-grade students. Students in third through fifth grades, seventh through eighth, and 10th through 12th grades returned March 15.

DeKalb’s in-person students were placed into two cohorts and each group attended classes one to two days a week with the same students. Starting March 29, the district will expand in-person learning to four days a week for those students.

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Reopening classrooms was a contentious topic among DeKalb parents, teachers and staff. While many parents supported reopening schools, dozens of teachers rallied in opposition of the plan, calling the district’s proposal unsafe.

Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris said this month that the debate on reopening classrooms has been an “extremely polarizing discussion.”

“My hope is that now that we have moved past this, that we will be able to begin the healing process as a system and focus our energies on academic excellence,” she said.

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DeKalb and other districts closed their doors in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. It began the 2020-21 school year with remote learning for all students.

DeKalb is among the last in metro Atlanta to reopen classrooms to students. Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry county schools began offering in-person learning to students during the fall semester. Atlanta Public Schools began rolling out its reopening plan in January.

Only Clayton County schools remain virtual, but the district said it will allow its pre-K through fifth grade students, as well as special education students of all grade levels, to return to campus for face-to-face instruction starting April 12.

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