Kemp urges schools to assess whether to close for two weeks

Brian Kemp says rise in cases requires more aggressive response; Atlanta is closing Monday
Gov. Brian Kemp held a press conference Thursday on the coronavirus in Georgia.

Gov. Brian Kemp held a press conference Thursday on the coronavirus in Georgia.

Citing the rapid rise of the coronavirus in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp said schools should assess whether to close down for two weeks, starting as “early as tomorrow.”

“This is not a mandate, said Kemp at a press conference Thursday. “We know school closures have a major impact on our Georgia families.”

“Given the rise of the coronavirus, I am going to issue a call to action. If local communities feel it is prudent, you should consider closing day cares and schools as early as tomorrow through the next two weeks.”

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

Kemp said he has given local K-12 districts, the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia free rein to act. "They have all been freed to take action as they deem fit and I am sure you will see many of them do that."
He said districts in Dublin and Macon may not face the risks of metro counties that already have confirmed COVID-19 cases. So, those districts may not choose to close as the threat is not as great.

The University System of Georgia already has announced it will follow Kemp’s advice and suspend classes on all its campuses through March 29.

There are 181 school districts that now have to decide whether to shut down. Atlanta Public Schools already said it plans to close for the two weeks.

At least one rural district is going to try and remain open.

Allen B. Fort, superintendent of the Taliaferro County District, said, “Closing school is our very last option. We are going to hold out as long as we can concerning cancelling school. The board and I are meeting tonight to discuss this situation and lay out what we believe we need to do and what the community needs and expects of us.”

“This virus and its effects pretty much possess mine and I imagine every superintendent entire day as to what to do, how to do it and the ramifications thereof,” said Fort.

“We are doing a survey of our students as to whom has adequate Wi-Fi/broadband in order to be able to access any online teaching. All of our students have 1:1 technology that we can let them take home in order to continue our teaching and learning in case of a need to not have school,” said Fort. “Our teachers are also going to make up packets of work/materials/resources for the students to take home in case a student does not have WIFI access, and for teachers to continue to create work, if we are out several days. We will deliver it to them if needed. Yes, we are that small.”

This is a breaking story with more to come.