School leaders brief Cobb lawmakers on coronavirus preparations

AJC File Photo: A school bus in metro Atlanta.
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AJC File Photo: A school bus in metro Atlanta.

School leaders from elementary through college sought to assure Cobb lawmakers Monday that they are prepared for the spread of the coronavirus, which has already shut down schools in neighboring Fulton County.

Administrators from the Cobb and Marietta school districts, as well as Kennesaw State University, said they were taking direction from the Centers for Disease Control and the county public health department.

While none of those systems had canceled classes yet, some changes have already gone into effect.

Foreign trips to affected countries have been cancelled for KSU and Cobb.

A Cobb representative said the district has also eased its attendance requirements for final exam waivers so as not to incentivize sick students to come to school. The district is looking at remote learning options if needed.

Craig Patterson of West Cobb, whose son is a senior at Allatoona High, said he had some trouble trying to get information about the exam waiver Monday. He called Cobb schools’ outreach performance for coronavirus “average.”

“It’s the templated ‘we’re concerned, we’re looking into it,’ and then copy paste from CDC,” he said.

Gretchen Walton of Cobb County School District said the system was following the same protocol it would for Ebola, swine flu or any infectious disease.

“This is not the first rodeo, I don’t think, for any of our institutions,” she said.

Walton added that any public announcement about an infected individual in the school system would be determined by the county health department according to privacy laws.

For its part, Marietta has hired additional staff to conduct more thorough cleaning of schools and buses every day. The district has also asked students to inform the system of international travel, and is considering suspending its “perfect attendance” program.

State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, pressed the administrators to go further than the current CDC recommendations by suspending all foreign travel, as the list of countries affected could change quickly.

“The worst feeling as a parent would be for your child to be in another country, and not be able to get home,” Wilkerson said.

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