Reports: DeKalb County Schools will start the school year with virtual learning on August 17DeKalb County School District Administration and Instructional Complex on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse
Decatur, GA — Dekalb County Schools announced on Monday that they will begin the school year on August 17 with 100% remote learning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A 30-page document was released by the new superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris and the county’s COVID-19 Reopening Task Force detailing survey results supporting the decision, as well as plans for how to move forward and reassess if the risk of COVID-19 infection changes.
The document utilizes a survey sent out to stakeholders June 9-21, which evaluated stakeholders’ level of comfort with social distancing and hygiene efforts, school bus transportation, serving meals, taking temperatures, access to technology and internet at home, and the use of masks at school.
An overwhelming 70% of employees were uncomfortable with returning to traditional, in-person schooling, compared to 35% of students and 59% of parents who were uncomfortable.
When asked if they would support a “hybrid” learning model, combining in-person and remote learning, responses were fairly equal among employees, students, and parents, with about 62% saying they were comfortable.
21% of employees indicated extenuating circumstances that would prevent them from returning to in-person schooling. These included personal pre-existing health conditions, and prevention of COVID-19 for someone with pre-existing conditions within their household.
Distance learning plans — and a possible return to in-person learning — will be re-assessed according to COVID-19 risk within Dekalb County. As of July 11, with 8,144 cases and 171 new cases on July 10, the Dekalb County Schools considers Dekalb County to be at a “substantial level” of risk spread. “Substantial level” means 100% remote learning. “Minimal/Moderate spread” means a hybrid of traditional and remote learning. Only “Low/No Spread” means a return to completely in-person learning.
Dekalb County Schools plans to re-assess these plans on September 14, October 19, November 9, and December 7.
The issue of whether to reopen schools has been a significant source of questions and anxiety for students, parents, and teachers. The Dekalb Schools website reportedly crashed due to high traffic during their virtual meeting on Monday announcing the plans.
Dekalb Schools is also devising staggered schedules to allow time for students, teachers, and support personnel to adjust to new instructional resources or check-out devices such as Chromebooks in preparation for the beginning of the school year. The county plans to purchase 1:1 Chromebooks for students Pre-K through 5th grade, and 10% replacement devices for grades 6 through 12.
“The first couple of weeks of school will not be like a normal school opening. We have planned activities so that the students have an opportunity to check out their devices and navigate [software],” said Chief Academic Officer Stacey Stepney, The Champion writes. According to Superintendent Watson-Harris, students without laptops will likely get their laptops beginning August 26.
Atlanta Public Schools plans to also continue remote learning for the first 9 weeks of school. City Schools of Decatur has not yet announced their plans.
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