Gwinnett schools staff among first to return to on-site duties

Since Gov. Brian Kemp decided not to extend the shelter-in-place mandate, Gwinnett County Public Schools came out Thursday with requirements for staff to return to work at its 141 schools and other facilities. Perhaps the first school system in the state to announce this sort of plan, the memo circulated to principals Thursday caused a stir.

According to the missive, director-level staff and above are to return to work on-site on Wednesday, May 6. All other staff with the exception of teachers will return to schools on Monday, May 11. Teachers will return to classrooms on Monday, May 18.

“We want to make sure it is clear that students aren’t returning to the schools,” said spokeswoman Sloan Roach. “We need teachers to close out their classrooms before families come to pick up personal items.”

Several teachers and other bombarded e-mails and social media sites of reporters at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution late Thursday. Many were concerned that their health and safety were being put at risk.

“I can understand cleaning out classrooms for the summer because we left all of sudden, in a hurry but to go and just sit around...seems risky! All it would take us for one to catch the COVID and then you risk infecting a school full of teachers and staff and possibly loosing some to this disease! Is it worth it just to say, ‘Teachers are working?’ What are we supposed to do with our own children?! Bring them with us?! “ posted one teacher.

“This is nuts when most child care centers are still closed. I am fortunate, because I don't have children at home anymore, however I am babysitting my five-year-old granddaughter while I'm teaching and trying to help her with her class work as well. I will not be bringing her to work with me should I get called back, although I don't work at a school in Gwinnett County,” posted another teacher.

Gwinnett schools has a policy of sending information to principals first before sending it to other staffers, news media and school families, said Roach. A detailed memo was sent to teachers this morning and parents and guardians will get a letter later today.

The AJC contacted Roach late last night and received information this morning.

Contrary to some reports, staff is being provided with personal protective equipment, i.e. masks and gloves. Custodial staff will be cleaning high-traffic areas and points of contact such as door knobs more often and everyone is asked to maintain social distance.

No decisions have been made about next school year.

“We have several contingency plans,” said Roach. “We may begin school remotely, being in person on the scheduled calendar or we may follow a modified calendar.”

She added that the district will provide information as it’s available.

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