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Decatur School Board discusses planning for coronavirus

COVID-19 Crime and public safety Decatur

Decatur School Board discusses planning for coronavirus

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES The Decatur School Board met on March 10. Pictured left to right: Board members Jana Johnson-Davis, Heather Tell, Tasha White, Superintendent David Dude, and Board Member James Herndon. Photo by Sara Amis
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By Sara Amis, contributor 

Decatur, GA – Contingency planning for the coronavirus known as COVID-19 was part of the discussion at the March 10 City Schools of Decatur Board of Education meeting.

“There’s a lot going on obviously with the coronavirus, and it’s a rapidly evolving situation,” Superintendent David Dude said. “All of the superintendents in Atlanta are communicating.  We are making sure that we all have the same information and we are coordinated in whatever our responses are.”

Dude noted that in some cases the school systems are receiving conflicting advice about how to respond.

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“We are following all of the protocols,” School Board Member Tasha White said. “Bus drivers, teachers, and other staff are doing an excellent job of reinforcing with the children how they can keep the germs away from each other. My daughter comes home every day telling me how she learned to wash her hands and fist bump or elbow bump instead of hugging friends and things like that.  I just want to reiterate that we are continuing to broadcast what we know as soon as we know it.”

Kunle Oguneye, a parent and Education Committee chair of Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, was concerned about the effect of current events on the “digital divide.”

“With the concerns around coronavirus and the possibility that schools may close, how do we accommodate the families that do not have technology at home?” asked Oguneye. He added that since nearly all the learning children do at home is online, even under ordinary circumstances those children are being left behind.

Editor’s note: Oguneye insisted that we mention he is a Decaturish supporter. To learn more about becoming a supporter, click here

Dude said the school system is trying to address this issue.

“We are beginning a push to get communications companies to open up their networks during this unusual time so that if we do have to send kids home if we can get them a device they can get them some internet access,” Dude said. “With regard to the digital divide it’s a topic we talk about a lot, but clearly it can’t just be solved by a school district. We do have a lot of resources, if there’s going to be a long term absence to get a device to send home with them. It’s a little harder to get them connected to something, but we’re hoping to work with partners to solve that access aspect.”

Beyond technology, there are basic needs that schools meet for disadvantaged students, Dude said.

“We’re also very aware of the needs of our students who depend on us for breakfast and lunch, and it’s something that Noel [Maloof] is working on with his staff to try to figure out, and partly it will depend on what restrictions are placed on us by the health department, but it’s something we are actively planning for,” he said.

Information and updates about CSD’s planning for COVID-19 can be found on the Safety and Security page on the CSD website.

In other CSD news:

– Several parents came to praise the proposed CSD budget’s inclusion of additional money for the education of students with learning disabilities.

Tamaris Diaz, president of the Special Education PTA for City Schools of Decatur, said, “I saw the video of the previous meeting and I was super excited to see some additions that would benefit our special education, gifted, and 504/IEP community. Over the years we have seen how our teachers are stretched thin. I know the Special Education department has done great work over the last few years, but there is more to do.”

The board approved the 2021 budget, which includes a teacher salary raise over and above the $1000 state-wide raise for a total of $2000, and a 3% cost of living raise for other staff.

– Keon Sanivandii, a Decatur High School sophomore, came to ask the school board to make it easier for students to switch to advanced courses that the high school does not offer, such as AP Chemistry, through the Georgia Virtual School program.

– The School Board is In the process of forming the Senior Homestead Exemption Committee with members from different stakeholder organizations.  Once the steering committee is in place, the first meeting will be held.  Meetings and agendas of the Senior Homestead Exemption Committee will be public.

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