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Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights speaks out on Decatur back-to-school plan

COVID-19 Decatur

Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights speaks out on Decatur back-to-school plan

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Co-Chair Mawuli Davis speaks during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.


Decatur, GA — The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, a group that advocates on behalf of Black residents and students in Decatur, on Friday released its official position on City Schools of Decatur’s school reopening plan.

CSD plans to bring Kindergarten through Fifth Grade students back for in person learning on Jan. 19, though students and families can opt to remain virtual.

The Beacon Hill Black Alliance statement includes a requirement that CSD “establish and present a metric for the return to in person instruction which includes daily cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and the hospital capacities of hospitals which serve the City of Decatur.”

Currently, the school district’s reopening plan focuses on mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and is not based on community spread. School districts around metro Atlanta are moving away from metrics and focusing on mitigation. Previously, CSD intended to use the number of cases per 100,000 people, but that number has continued to rise and as of Friday there are 690 cases per 100,000 people in DeKalb County.

Mitigation measures being used by the Decatur School district include:

– Cohorting, the practice of keeping the same students and teachers in the same small group at all times during the school day.

– Use of mask and personal protection equipment (PPE)

– Physical distancing: 6 feet between individuals

– Increasing ventilation

– Enhanced hygiene and disinfection procedures

– Contract tracing

– Quarantine/isolation procedures

– Strict restriction of visitors to schools and administrative sites

– Measuring and monitoring mitigation via building checklists

Mawuli Davis, co-chair of the Beacon Hill group, said in a text that the group released its position at this time because “we want our position to be clear.”

“We have been organizing and discussing this prior to now,” Davis said. “Not everyone is one accord but this statement reflects our official position.”

A message left with School Board Chair Tasha White was not immediately returned. When she was elected as board chair earlier this week, White revealed that she had COVID-19 and was experiencing symptoms. Heather Tell, the board’s new vice chair, also did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Here is the full statement from the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights regarding CSD’s reopening plan:

Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights believes that every child has a right to a safe, effective, and quality education. In this time of a national pandemic, we want to ensure use of clear and equitable standards as the schools attempt to move forward in the efforts to find the least restrictive environment to make learning accessible to students.  It is important for families to be able to make the best decision for their families based on family needs and family constraints.  According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, during the last two weeks in December, their number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children age 5-17 in Dekalb County has shown a high rate of increase as have all other subgroups.  Families deserve the right to make a decision about instructional settings without worrying about the level of academic instruction and support.

Following is a list of basic requirements (at this time) we feel are important to consider as the City of Decatur School System moves forward.

– City Schools of Decatur need to establish and present a metric for the return to in person instruction which includes daily cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and the hospital capacities of hospitals which serve the City of Decatur.

– Students must have access to high quality instruction regardless of a virtual or in person setting.

– Parents need access to information in a timely manner in understandable terms/language.  Emailing and virtual postings do not reach all members of our community.

– Teacher:Student ratios must lend themselves to promoting a positive impact on student learning and academic achievement.  In recent years, there has been a push toward decreasing student-teacher ratios across the board in the hopes of improving the academic performance of school-age children. Research also indicates that smaller class sizes promote greater academic achievement/gains for minority and/or disadvantaged students.  Therefore, increasing the teacher:student ratio for virtual students would lessen instructional impact.

– For students who are in need, the school system must have access to social and emotional instruction and interventions.

Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights supports teachers and students for the benefit of the community.  All members of our community deserve safe, fair, equitable, and quality education.  This requires we keep a focus on ensuring all teachers and students are provided with valid and sustainable choices for themselves and their families without jeopardizing their health, safety or education.

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