DeKalb Schools superintendent defends decision to return teachers to buildingsDeKalb County School District Administration and Instructional Complex on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse
By Sara Amis, contributor
DeKalb County, GA — The decision to bring DeKalb County School District’s teachers back to the buildings on Feb. 3 has sparked opposition from some parents and teachers, including the Organization of DeKalb Educators.
Citing collaboration with the district’s medical advisory board, and guidance released by the CDC on Dec. 29, Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris defended the decision at the DCSD Board of Education meeting on Feb. 8.
“We have not changed course, we have not baited or switched with metrics. This has been a thoughtful, deliberate, and transparent process,” said Watson-Harris.
Watson-Harris also defended the district’s state of building readiness.
“We have delivered PPE, I have seen it myself. We have prepared a two-month buffer of cleaning and sanitation supplies. Heat is activated in all buildings and the district does not have widespread outages,” she said. She acknowledged that some buildings do have HVAC issues but stated that addressing them was “top priority.”
“We have continued to follow the guidance of the CDC,” the superintendent said.
During the public comment period, parents, teachers and students mostly spoke in opposition to any return to face-to-face learning.
Heather Shoemaker said that her son’s speech therapist quit rather than go back into the school building, and that she felt that it was better for a speech therapist to be virtual during a pandemic rather than attempt to teach while wearing a mask.
“We’ve lost multiple members of our family due to COVID and I don’t want my children to go through losing a teacher as well,” Shoemaker said.
Alexis Weaver said that she was concerned that masks would make it more difficult for her autistic daughter to pick up on social cues, and that both of her children would remain virtual. Weaver felt that the communication and approach from the district had changed suddenly.
“I was surprised and disappointed to see a one hundred and eighty degree shift in November,” Weaver said.
High school student Niana Battle said that there had been much discussion of the impact on Black students.
“As one of the Black kids, I would like to speak for us,” she said. Battle said that while attending school virtually she had completed four college courses as well as her regular high school classes. She also spoke about the impact of serious illness on a family.
“My sister spent 68 days in the hospital due to a respiratory virus. I was scared. No other family should have to experience this,” Battle said.
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