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(PHOTOS) Parents, teachers protest DeKalb County Schools reopening plan

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(PHOTOS) Parents, teachers protest DeKalb County Schools reopening plan

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Gail, a special education teacher with 27 years of experience said, “We don’t need to go back,” as she and other teachers protested the January return to in person schooling in front of the DeKalb County School District offices in Stone Mountain Dec. 29. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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By Dean Hesse, contributor 

Stone Mountain, GA — On Dec. 29, DeKalb County School District teachers and parents protested in front of the DeKalb County School District offices in Stone Mountain, just one week after a similar protest following the districts Dec. 14 announcement that school staff would return Jan. 4 and in-person teaching would begin Jan. 19.

Schools have been virtual in DeKalb County since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday’s protest drew a slightly larger number of people than last week’s protest, which saw approximately 250 people in attendance.

A teacher with 20 years’ experience, 15 with DeKalb schools, who was among the protestors standing along Mountain Industrial Boulevard said, “Of course we want to get back in the buildings. We miss our kids. We know this is not the most ideal way to do the work that we do, but we just feel that it’s not safe yet. The metrics have changed, at first the county said it’s safe to go back to work when we have cases per 100,000 under 100. We’re now up over 500. Then it changed to a positivity rate of 10% and we’re at 10.4%. We know we’ll be returning to school safely when the time is right, and it’s not now.”

Lisa Baker, a parent of two students at DeKalb County schools and one of the organizers of Coalition for a Safe DCSD Return said, “We started organizing in October because the county started talking about sending teachers back and even when they had a reasonable metric that they wouldn’t have any in person learning until the cases were below 100 in 100,000, even then we were concerned about that being safe for teachers. But now they just throw the metrics out the window.

“Apparently, we don’t care about science anymore in this county, and they’re just saying teachers have to go back no matter what. I care about my kid’s teachers. I care about them surviving. It’s absolutely horrifying to me that they are being forced to go back with absolutely no options. No choice. They don’t even have the option to quit in this state. If they quit, they could risk losing their license.”

Another teacher, Stacey Shoats said, “I’ve been teaching for 28 years. I’m out here because I have a preexisting condition which DeKalb County refuses to acknowledge and allow me to telework. It’s not fair that I’ve got to give up what I love and risk dying. So, I’m asking them to simply acknowledge the fact that we can’t go back right now and do what’s best for everyone, because we are all human beings and we all matter.”

Gwen, a DeKalb County School District teacher holds a sign along Mountain Industrial Boulevard in front of the DeKalb County School District offices during a protest Dec. 29 against the return to in person schooling in January. Gwen, who preferred to only give her first name, said “This is all about a dollar. Is a life worth a dollar? No. What does it mean? Do teachers have to die in DCSD before they get it?” Photo by Dean Hesse.

A teacher who did not wish to be identified holds a sign along Mountain Industrial Boulevard in front of the DeKalb County School District offices during a Dec. 29 protest against the return to in person schooling in January. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Teachers carry a makeshift coffin along Mountain Industrial Boulevard in front of the DeKalb County School District offices during a protest Dec. 29 against the return to in person schooling in January. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Retired educator Maude King protests the January return to in person schooling in front of the DeKalb County School District offices Dec. 29. Photo by Dean Hesse.

On Dec. 29, teachers hold up signs along Mountain Industrial Boulevard in front of the DeKalb County School District offices in protest of a return to in person schooling in January. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Teachers and parents held signs along Mountain Industrial Boulevard in front of the DeKalb County School District offices Dec. 29 to protest the return to in person schooling in January. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Teacher Nina Jenkins Donker (r) said, “I’m trying to protect an elderly mother and a 9-year-old with a congenital heart defect” as she and other teachers and parents lined Mountain Industrial Boulevard in front of the DeKalb County School District offices Dec. 29 to protest the return to in person schooling in January. Photo by Dean Hesse.

William Hodge, 12, a seventh grader at Druid Hills Middle School and his mother Emily Klimkiewicz came out to support DeKalb County School District teachers Dec. 29, during a protest against the return to in person schooling in January. Emily, who also has a daughter attending Druid Hills High School said, ”It’s insane to go back now with the rates higher than ever. It makes no sense. It’s infuriating.” William said, “Teachers give us homework, but they also give us our future.” Photo by Dean Hesse.

David Fossati, a computer science professor at Emory University came out to support DeKalb County School District teachers during a Dec. 29 protest against the January return to in person schooling. He said, “I’m not personally affected but I totally support them.” Fosssati also said his students have actually done better on quizzes and exams with virtual learning than with face to face. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Teachers hold signs along Mountain Industrial Boulevard in front of the DeKalb County School District offices Dec. 29 to protest the return to in person schooling in January. Photo by Dean Hesse.

A paraprofessional holds a sign on Mountain Industrial Boulevard in front of the DeKalb County School District offices on Dec. 29 to protest the return to in person schooling in January. Photo by Dean Hesse.

A teacher holds a sign in front of the DeKalb County School District offices in Stone Mountain Dec. 29, during a protest against the return to in person schooling in January. Photo by Dean Hesse.

During a protest in front of the DeKalb County School District offices in Stone Mountain, Dec. 29, retired educator Maude King — who said she taught 32 years and has a son and daughter who are DeKalb County School District teachers, along with two grandchildren in the system — holds a banner addressed to Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris that reads, in part, “Please do the right thing and listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci.” Photo by Dean Hesse.

English and Language Arts teacher Adam Beerman protests the January return to in person schooling with other DeKalb County School District teachers and parents in front of the district’s offices in Stone Mountain Dec. 29. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misquoted one of the teachers. This story has been updated to include the correct quote. 

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