Parents juggle schedules as Fulton schools remain closed another day

Parents across Fulton County had to scramble for a second day after a coronavirus infection led officials to close Georgia’s fourth largest school district again Wednesday.

Parents across Fulton County had to scramble for a second day after a coronavirus infection led officials to close Georgia’s fourth largest school district again Wednesday.

The schools were closed Tuesday after a teacher at two middle schools was diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

Later Tuesday, Superintendent Mike Looney extended the closure. All of the more than 100 schools are being disinfected as a precaution, and the district said more time was needed.

State school Superintendent Richard Woods supported the decision affecting about 94,000 students, but said in a written statement that it was a unique situation. “At this time,” he said, “school closures are not recommended for other areas.”

The reluctance to close more schools was understandable.

Parents such as Lori Chaves, who lives about 60 miles from Bear Creek Middle School where the infected teacher fell ill on Friday, said her day was thrown into chaos. The sales executive with a technology firm works 60- and 70-hour weeks, and although her employer understood her need to work from home, meetings still had to happen.

“My kids are screaming when I’m on the phone,” said Chaves, who lives in Alpharetta with her husband and two energetic boys, aged 6 and 10. They require a structured day, she said. “I can’t just turn them loose. I mean, they fight.”

She and her husband took turns watching them.

At least her ordeal is supposed to end Thursday. Bear Creek near Fairburn is expected to remain closed another two weeks, until March 23.

Artica Jackson is a nurse and missed a day of work, without pay, Tuesday because one of her children attends Bear Creek. The hospital told her to stay home.

“I am a little shocked,” she said. Jackson doesn’t know what happens next: Would she be allowed back at work? Is it responsible for her husband at AT&T to go back to an office full of people? Will their children be OK?

The mother is frustrated with what she says is relative silence from the school district.

“It seems as though they don’t have a plan either, it’s just going step by step,” she said. “It puts a monkey wrench in the plan when it doesn’t need to be there.”


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Woodland Middle School, where the infected teacher also works, is not expected to reopen until Tuesday, March 17.

A student waits at the front entrance at Woodland Middle School in East Point, Monday, March 9, 2020. The Fulton County School system has decided to close schools on Tuesday after a teacher tested positive with the coronavirus. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

The district said “additional steps” were needed at both schools.

Closing schools is proving to be controversial, whatever the decision: People are upset both when it happens and when it does not.

Students at Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, Georgia State and Kennesaw State universities have mounted online petition drives to compel their campuses to close campuses and instead hold online classes. Some universities outside Georgia have already gone entirely online, from Harvard on the East Coast to Stanford out West.

03/10/2020 -- Atlanta, Georgia -- Georgia State University undergrad sophomore Emma Berman wears a face mask while navigating the university's campus in Atlanta, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. Bearman, a Cobb County resident who has asthma, says she wears the mask for herself but also because her mother has an auto immune disorder. She ordered the mask a few weeks ago and has been wearing it to classes. Bearman works in retail but has opted out of wearing the mask to work. She says her job is allowing workers to wear gloves. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer


See a map of the Georgia cases by clicking here


So far, most who have been infected report mild symptoms, especially children and young adults. The disease appears to be more serious for older people and those with chronic health conditions.

Outside metro Atlanta, Murray County Schools in far north Georgia announced Tuesday that a teacher was being isolated at her parents’ house in Atlanta after her father, whom she was visiting, was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Areas without confirmed infections are proceeding as normal, with a hint of caution. In Decatur a 5-kilometer “fun run” will start as planned Saturday, with the exception of one tradition: students will not get to toss pies at teachers’ faces.

“With all the news coming out daily about coronavirus,” the Decatur Education Foundation told parents, “we feel we just can’t take the risk of having kids’ hands in the faces of our teachers and staff.”

Staff writer Maureen Downey contributed to this article


>>READER REACTION | As Georgia schools begin to feel the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wants to hear from readers about the actual or anticipated consequences for them. Are you a parent concerned about child care should classes be cancelled? With spring break less than a month away, have you considered altering your travel plans? How has your family, work or business been affected and what do you expect? Please contact ttagami@ajc.com

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