Families in the 94,000-student school district have rushed to make plans for what to do with their children while they are out of school.
"The current case at Woodland Middle School does not pose any additional exposure to other locations and staff throughout Fulton County Schools; therefore, all other schools will re-open and continue regular schedules on Thursday, March 12, as previously announced," according to the district.
Fulton Superintendent Mike Looney said Wednesday that there are no additional staff members showing symptoms and no students have been confirmed to have the virus.
But that may change. "Realistically, it is possible that we will see additional cases within Fulton County," Looney said.
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
So far, most people who have been infected have mild symptoms, especially children and young adults. The disease appears to be more serious for older people and those with chronic health conditions.
He said “the district cannot sustain long term school closures,” so they are looking at alternatives, like implementing remote learning along with abbreviated and/or limited school closures.
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“While remote learning is an alternative, it can never replace the quality of instruction that a teacher provides in one of Fulton County’s classroom,” he said.
Fulton schools announced Monday that the first teacher had been diagnosed with COVID-19. That teacher fainted in class on Friday at Bear Creek Middle and has classes at both Bear Creek and Woodland middle schools.
The schools closed early Monday along with Creekside High, near Bear Creek, because the schools share staff and many families have students at both the middle and high schools.
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Woodland had been scheduled to re-open Tuesday, March 17.
“In both cases, the closure is to reduce risk of additional exposure during the 14-day waiting period recommended by the Centers for Disease Control,” the district said.
The Woodland teacher was last in class Monday, March 9.
The closures are also supposed to give the district time to disinfect the schools and find families who may have come into contact with the teachers.
Looney didn’t say how many families the district had reached out to individually, instead saying: “We are working with county public health officials to reach out to families who they consider as high-risk for exposure.”
Students wait outside 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. A decision on whether to keep the schools closed longer was expected Tuesday evening. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
He said that families who have not been contacted by the county public health department “are considered to have low risk of exposure and should self-monitor.”
As for the cleaning, the district said Bear Creek and Woodland are getting “360-degree disinfectant fogging.”
The connection between the cases wasn’t laid out by the school district in its announcement Wednesday, but the a district spokesman confirmed that the teachers, whose names have not been disclosed, work together.
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Looney added that the district is finalizing how to provide continued meal service to students at the middle schools, saying the school principals should be sending more information out by Friday.
Sonny Perdue, United States Secretary of Agriculture, announced Tuesday flexible meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus effective immediately through June 30, 2020 for affected schools.
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The ripples of the school closure was felt throughout the county.
Fulton County government officials said Tuesday no facilities are closed due to coronavirus, but about 80 employees took off time because the school district had closed schools. Fulton offered for their employees to take paid time off up to 14 days, said county spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt.
She said Wednesday that the county will "reassess later this week based on the modifications in the school closures."
The government has told officials to limit official travel. The county also offered leave to two people who had taken personal travel to "high-risk nations."