DeKalb County schools to remain closed amid surge in COVID-19 cases
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By Sara Amis, contributor
Stone Mountain, GA — In a report to the DeKalb County Board of Education Nov. 9, Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris and her staff advised the board that based on the benchmarks previously determined, schools will remain in Phase 1 distance learning mode.
“Both locally and nationally there has been a trend upward. Each metric has increased since the last board meeting” said Regional Superintendent Dr. Michelle Jones.
DeKalb County Schools along with several other school districts has been using 100 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population over two weeks as the delineation between “high spread” and “moderate spread,” per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the Georgia Department of Public Health. No in-person schooling will resume until spread drops below the 100 case threshold.
“At this point, we are over 200 cases per 100,000 for a fourteen-day period. We remain at a high level of community spread,” said Jones.
Currently, responses from parents and guardians indicate that 56% of them prefer that their students continue with distance learning. Chief Academic Officer Stacy Stepney stated that as things change, the intent to return forms can be updated and a timestamp will show parents’ most recent decisions.
To address mental health concerns, school counselors are holding virtual office hours and checking in with individual students. School psychologists are holding parenting workshops and providing individual and group counseling to students. School social workers have conducted webinar meetings for parents, provided additional resources to improve the home school environment, and created a link in the district’s online platform so students can request assistance.
School Board member Joyce Morley asked for the superintendent to develop a clearer plan for what to do when children test positive if parents do not pick them up immediately.
“I commend you and your leadership team for remaining consistent with determining what we are going to do,” said Board member Vickie Turner.
In other business, Chief Financial Officer Chuck Burbridge reported to the Board that the district was on track to regain its AA3 credit rating with Moody Investment Service. The school district lost its rating in March of this year, after failing to turn over financial information on the 2018 fiscal year. Moody’s has not yet announced the change.
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