Fulton schools: Coronavirus closure likely to stretch through Spring Break

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Going a bit farther than Gov. Brian Kemp, Fulton County schools superintendent Mike Looney said Tuesday the 94,000-student district likely wouldn’t re-open until after Spring Break.

Looney told this to the Fulton school board, which held an online meeting via Microsoft Teams, which is what the entire district is now running to teach and coordinate while school buildings are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said there are no plans to cancel Springs Break. Looney said he figures people need the break to “take a deep breath” and de-stress after all this tumult.

Coronavirus in Georgia | Get the latest coverage from The AJC by clicking here.

The district has had three teachers test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The first fainted in class at Bear Creek Middle School on Friday, March 6. The other teacher was last in class at Woodland Middle School on Monday, March 9.

These cases prompted the district to close all of its more than 100 schools for last week on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then the district held classes on Thursday, which is when a third teacher — this one at Banneker High School — who was later diagnosed, came into contact with students and staff.

Looney said at a board meeting last week that school buildings and district offices would close the next day "until further notice," making it the first in the state to do so. Then Kemp on Monday ordered the closure of public elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools through March.

Fulton’s Spring Break starts April 6.

“In all honesty … based on what’s happening … we will likely remain closed until after Spring Break,” Looney said during the board meeting Tuesday.

BACKGROUND | Parents juggle schedules as Fulton schools remain closed another day

Looney echoed that sentiment during a virtual town hall hosted by Rep. Roger Bruce, D-South Fulton, that included other elected officials.

“I think realistically that the soonest we could re-open is after Spring Break,” he said.

When asked about the most extreme case, Looney said: “We have no intention at this time to close for the school year.”

He said during the board meeting that the district has spent $1.5 million on 3,000 new computers for families who don’t have a computer for one child or have enough computers for multiple children suddenly home doing online learning.

READ | Coronavirus causing 'drastic employee shortage' in Fulton courts

When asked if students were actually doing schoolwork on these computers, Looney said it was “overwhelming in the number of students online” but didn’t share any numbers.

Like others around the country, the Fulton school district is providing meals for families in need while buildings are closed.

Multiple school board members said they’d gotten calls about that locations of meal distribution for families in need were inconvenient, and they encouraged Looney to open more sites.

READ | Where to find your Fulton school's free meal distribution point

He said that was in the works and could come as early as next week, but was complicated by guidance from health experts to not let more than 50 people come together to cook, distribute and take the meals.

When asked why the district doesn’t deliver the meals by bus, Looney said that wasn’t feasible or safe for his staff to come into contact with so many families during this pandemic.

“We’re trying to find a balance of having the appropriate number of employees and facilities open,” Looney said.

READ | Georgia Milestones, other state school tests suspended

He said district officials handed out 4,050 packages at six sites on Monday. Each packages contained four meals, so the district gave out 16,200 meals in one day. The distribution happens on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Here’s the breakdown from Monday:

• Lake Forest Elementary School in Sandy Springs, 946 packages

• Mimosa Elementary in Roswell, 657 packages

• Haynes Bridge Middle School in Alpharetta, 509 packages

• Tri-Cities High School in East Point, 990 packages

• Banneker High School in College Park, 472 packages

• Langston Hughes High School in Fairburn, 476 packages

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