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Following criticism, Cobb schools releases details of August reopening

Cobb County School District Superintendent Chris Ragsdale speaks before a tour of McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia, on Thursday, February 13, 2020. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the AJC)
Cobb County School District Superintendent Chris Ragsdale speaks before a tour of McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia, on Thursday, February 13, 2020. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the AJC)

A group of parents, teachers and students are pressuring the Cobb County School District to share more details about what it will take to resume classes in August during the coronavirus pandemic. Late Friday, the school district released details about the plan.

The plan, which does not need school board approval, says that face masks and coverings are “strongly recommended” for students, but are expected for staff. It also allows students and staff to wear face shields, requires social distancing in every possible way and provides additional personal protective equipment in school clinics.

The plan is laid out on the school district's new website, cobblearningeverywhere.com, that details students' option of returning to classrooms or learning remotely for the 2020-21 school year. Registration for either option will begin July 13 and end July 22 and must be done online. The site also has a list of health and safety protocols the district will implement.

The plan was assembled by more than 100 people, including principals, assistant principals, teachers and district employees.

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The group Reopen Our Classrooms Safely earlier this week issued demands they want the school district to implement, including postponing the Aug. 17 start date; publicizing how the district will follow health and safety guidelines and how it will respond to confirmed COVID-19 cases; and addressing how it will provide technology for low-income families who choose virtual learning options. Some of their concerns were addressed in the plan released late Friday.

The group will protest the district's current reopening plan at 6 p.m. July 16. Participants will march from Larry Bell Park at 592 Fairground Street to the district's headquarters at 514 Glover Street in Marietta.

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Millicent Phinizy of Mableton, who has two elementary school-aged children, said earlier Friday the district has not provided any details to help parents choose between their two options for the return to school: Virtual learning from home or a traditional classroom setting. Phinizy also said parents want to know how the district will respond if a child becomes sick and has to isolate at home for 14 days.

“Parents are being asked to make a decision without knowing how anything looks,” she said. “We are actively trying to work these plans out because everybody is just really concerned about the lack of direction.”

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Cobb County School District spokeswoman Nan Kiel said the system is taking the concerns of parents seriously.

“Our team remains focused on the safety and health of our students and staff as we plan for an unpredictable school year,” she said.

RaShawn Swann, another Mableton parent who has a rising junior at Pebblebrook High School, said she would like her son to return to class in a traditional setting, but felt “ill-prepared” to make a decision because the district has not adequately communicated to parents and students about what they should expect.

Swann added she would like the same level of details doctor’s offices and other medical facilities have in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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Davis said the parents’ demands are a “basic ask” that the district should consider. As a parent of two children, the school board member said she also understands the anxiety and frustration that comes with having to make a decision amid the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“People just want to know if their kids are gong to be safe,” she said.