Shadow Rock Elementary School Assistant Principal Jason Moffitt is masked as he gives parent Shadiyah Williams handouts during her visit to pick up her child’s classwork at the school in Lithonia April 27, 2020. Employees returning to school buildings in the district must wear masks as part of efforts to continue slowing the spread of the coronavirus. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

DeKalb teachers to return to school for first time since pandemic

Some DeKalb County School District teachers will return to their classrooms next month, many for the first time since COVID-19 fears closed school buildings across the state in March.

Teachers will be allowed inside DeKalb school buildings over a two-week period beginning June 8 to pack up their classrooms for the school year, Superintendent Ramona Tyson said this week.

And they will do so in “staggered” shifts, utilizing social distancing and other guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Intervention, Tyson said.

“They will be social distancing, using masks, gloves, sanitizing high-touch areas, limiting the number of people inside,” she said. “They’re going to work it out school-by-school.”

Students also will be allowed to come to the schools during that period to return any supplies or pick up anything they left when school buildings were shut down in March.

Tyson said the plan was developed using recommendations from a district committee, along with the CDC and DeKalb County Department of Health guidance. Not all employees will return during those two weeks, she said.

“If a teacher decides to leave that classroom the way it is until preplanning begins (for the 2020-2021 school year), that’s fine, too,” she said. “Especially if they have chronic conditions.”

Metro Atlanta’s biggest school districts began announcing plans to close school buildings on March 12, on a suggestion from Gov. Brian Kemp to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. What began as a two-week phase for some has lasted more than two months, with no clear end in sight. Officials have debated whether schools would fully open in August for the 2020-2021 school year or offer a hybrid option that could see some students and teachers remain home.

Even deciding when to let employees inside buildings to close out their classrooms has prompted several discussions on how to let it happen.

Tyson said early in May that the district was taking additional precautions as it decided how to allow teachers back into school buildings due to continued concerns over spreading the coronavirus.

Some metro Atlanta districts have announced plans to end some work-from-home scenarios, with one district forced to rethink those plans after they were met with backlash.

A Gwinnett County Schools plan announced on May 1 that all employees would return to on-site work was changed after employees and residents voiced concern over their continued issues with childcare and the employees’ health and safety.

Officials walked back the plan — which initially included a multistep phase-in which had all employees back in buildings by May 18 — in favor of one that will only see teachers return this school year to close out their classrooms.

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