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DeKalb Schools may resume in-person learning on Jan. 19

COVID-19 Metro ATL

DeKalb Schools may resume in-person learning on Jan. 19

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DeKalb County School District Administration and Instructional Complex on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse
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DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County School District has announced that face-to-face instruction may resume as early as Jan. 19, but there’s an important caveat.

To reopen, the school district is changing its metric from cases per 100,000 residents to the COVID-19 positivity rate, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Previously, the school district said it would reopen when cases reached 100 per 100,000 people or less for 14-days. As COVID-19 cases spiked – cases now stand at 496 per 100,000 people in DeKalb County, it became clear that it would be a long time before cases fell to 100 per 100,000 people.

Now, the district tells the AJC, the new metric for resuming face-to-face learning is the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate. The superintendent hinted at this possibility during a recent School Board meeting. The positivity rate will have to fall below 10 percent over a two week period for in-person learning to resume on Jan. 19. Currently, the county’s positivity rate is 10.1 percent. To read the AJC story, click here.

The school district’s revised reopening plan is on the district’s website, but it does not include a date. To see the plan on the school district’s website, click here. Outgoing School Board Member Stan Jester shared the proposed reopening date and additional details about the plan on his personal blog. A message to Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris wasn’t immediately returned.

He said staff would return to buildings on Jan. 4 and prekindergarten through second grade, sixth graders and ninth graders would return on Jan. 19. Other grades would return on Jan. 25. Students would still be able to learn virtually if that’s what their families choose.

“Schools will organize all classes into two cohorts based on alpha order to adhere to social/physical distancing requirements and safety guidance,” Jester said. “Local schools will collaborate with families to align the schedules of siblings. Wednesdays will be reserved for small group instruction, tutoring, appointments for student conferencing, parent conferencing, services, professional learning, collaborative planning and instructional planning.”

There will be two days of face-to-face instruction per week, two days of remote learning and Wednesdays would be set aside for small group instruction, tutoring and student conferences, among other things.

So how will the school district accommodate teachers who do not wish to return?

“Telework may possibly be provided as an option for employees who qualify for an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),” Jester wrote. “If an employee believes he/she has a medical condition that qualifies for an ADA accommodation, he/she must complete an ADA application and provide supporting medical certification to begin the process. Employees may request ADA documentation from Employee Relations or bookkeepers.”

And what will happen if there’s an outbreak at a school?

“If a school-based staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19, there will be a targeted impact on the school and/or classroom which could include a transition to distance/remote learning and working environments for a period of time,” Jester wrote.

To see the full post, click here.

DeKalb County isn’t the only local school district wrestling with a plan to resume in-person learning. City Schools of Decatur plans to bring Pre-K through 5th grade back on hybrid schedule starting Jan. 19.

Update: DeKalb County Schools has published the following announcement regarding its reopening plans …

DeKalb County School District (DCSD) will begin its re-opening process on a staggered schedule Jan. 4, 2021, with staff returning to school buildings. Students in grades Pre-K, 1st, 2nd, 6th, and 9th grade will have the option to begin in-person learning on Jan. 19, 2021.

DCSD Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris and her team presented the District’s updated re-opening plan during a virtual Family Town Hall meeting on Dec. 14. Decisions have been carefully made given the magnitude of the effects of COVID-19 and school closures on teaching and learning.

The District’s decision tree has evolved based on updated guidance from the CDC. The decision tree was shared with the Medical Advisory Group, principals, staff and parents during recent meetings and town halls is a continuum aligned with the CDC’s guidance. The District will consider additional indicators identified by the CDC that include the percentage of RT-PCR tests that are positive during the last 14 days (positivity rate) and ability of the schools to implement the five key mitigation strategies and additional strategies to lower the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in schools.

The CDC’s five key mitigation strategies to further reduce the level of risk of COVID-19 introduction and transmission inside the school are:

– Consistent and correct use of masks

– Social distancing to the largest extent possible

– Hand washing

– Cleaning and disinfecting

– Contact tracing in collaboration with DeKalb Board of Health

The District will continue to offer high-quality instruction in a concurrent learning environment.  The concurrent learning environment will support students in either setting—distance/remote learning and in-person learning. Parents will have the option of continuing virtual learning or returning to face-to-face.

The District will communicate with families and continue providing mental health support for staff and students as we move forward with the implementation of the return to school plan.

Phase One of the re-opening begins the week of Jan. 4-8, 2021 with faculty and staff returning, which includes teachers teaching virtually from the classroom. In Phase Two, the District will begin phasing-in students Jan. 19, 2021, the first day of the second semester. Phase Two includes students in Pre-K through second grades, sixth grade and ninth grade students. The remaining grade levels will phase-in on January 25, 2021 following a hybrid model during Phase Three of our plan.

Telework may be provided as an option for employees who qualify for an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees requesting an ADA accommodation will have a Human Resource Specialist assigned to see their application through to completion. Employeeswho believe they have a medical condition that qualifies for an ADA accommodationmust complete an ADA application and provide supporting medical certification to begin the process.

The District will continuously monitor current COVID-19 data and assess the level of spread to determine if and when the current learning model should be adjusted. The next assessments will be presented during upcoming board meetings.

For additional information about the re-opening plan, visit www.dekalbschoolsga.org/school-reopening.

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