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DeKalb, Atlanta public schools to start spring semester virtually; CSD will resume in-person learning

COVID-19 Decatur Metro ATL Trending

DeKalb, Atlanta public schools to start spring semester virtually; CSD will resume in-person learning

DeKalb County School District Administration and Instructional Complex on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse

Update: On Jan. 1, Atlanta Public Schools reversed course and decided to start the semester virtually. Here’s the announcement from APS: 

Here is our earlier story…

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County School District on Dec. 31 announced that students will learn remotely for the first week of the spring semester due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, days after announcing that they planned to resume in-person learning on Jan. 4.

The school district says students will return to in-person learning on Jan. 10.

Meanwhile, City Schools of Decatur will start the spring semester in person. Atlanta Public Schools also appears to be prepared to return to in-person learning next week. Fulton County Schools will be virtual for the first week, the school district announced.

Here’s the full announcement from DeKalb County Schools:

DeKalb County School District (DCSD) actively reviews the health data and Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance. We also consult with the Department of Public Health and the Medical Advisory Committee to inform decision-making pertaining to the health and safety of staff and students. Due to the rising number of positive cases within DeKalb County and Metro-Atlanta area, students will engage in virtual instruction on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, through Friday, January 7, 2022.

All 12-month and 11-month employees, and 10-month assistant principals will report to work on Monday, January 3, 2022. COVID-19 testing will be available for employees at the Administrative & Instructional Complex in Stone ​Mountain on January 3 and January 4, 2022, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students will return to face-to-face instruction on Monday, January 10, 2022.

For students who did not bring devices home in advance of winter break, parents and guardians will be permitted to pick up learning devices for students on Monday, January 3 and Tuesday, January 4, 2022. Principals will provide the distribution times. Breakfast and lunch can be picked up curbside January 5-7, 2022.

DCSD has updated the Readiness Response Guide 2021 (Revised on December 30, 2021) to align with the CDC’s guidance published on December 29, 2021. DCSD continues to implement the CDC’s mitigation strategies and other strategies to lower the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in schools. You are encouraged to review this information and encourage your family to adhere to the guidelines and protocols shared.

On Dec. 28, the school district told parents it planned to resume in-person learning on Jan. 4.

“Currently, DeKalb County School District (DCSD) plans for students to resume in-person instruction on Tuesday, January 4, 2022,” the school district announced on Dec. 28. “DCSD continues to monitor trends in reported COVID-19 cases, including the recently reported increase in the spread of the Omicron Variant.”

Many students did not take their computers home for the break.

In an email to parents on Dec. 31, City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Maggie Fehrman announced the district will return to in-person learning next week.

“As shared in our previous communication, there is strong evidence that regardless of the level of transmission in our community, schools remain a safe place for our students and staff,” Fehrman said. “We understand that there is a great deal to still learn about this new variant, and CSD has enhanced our mitigation efforts, and we are committed to keeping schools open as long as we can safely do so.”

Here is her full letter to parents:

Happy New Year to All!

As we watch the impact of omicron continue to expand exponentially, there are many families and staff concerned about how the current COVID surge will impact schools in the first few weeks of the new year. As shared in our previous communication, there is strong evidence that regardless of the level of transmission in our community, schools remain a safe place for our students and staff. We understand that there is a great deal to still learn about this new variant, and CSD has enhanced our mitigation efforts, and we are committed to keeping schools open as long as we can safely do so.

Parents should know that there is still a possibility for intermittent closures of classes and perhaps even schools due to a high number of staff who may need to isolate or quarantine. Schools are usually able to manage teacher absences, and our amazing CSD staff have always stepped up to cover classes as needed. CSD did hire additional full-time substitutes in November and December and added additional sub positions for the first two weeks of January. However, there is a tipping point when we simply cannot operate schools safely if a significant number of staff are absent. CSD is prepared for this scenario and we have contingency plans ready in the event we need to close a class or school due to staffing issues. In the event that a class(es) or a school must close, CSD will communicate this to our families as soon as possible. Wilson Center staff are supporting our principals as they work with school staff to ensure that we can pivot to virtual learning in just a few hours, including distributing Chromebooks and hotspots for students in isolation, quarantine, and or in the event of a class/school closure.

In the event that we encounter staffing issues in our operations division, such as transportation or school nutrition, we also have contingency plans to mitigate staffing shortages. This includes doubling bus routes and limiting menu options along with others. If adjustments in operations are needed, CSD will communicate information as soon as possible to inform parents if buses are running late or if we have significant changes in our menu options.

Mitigation Updates and Reminders

1. Get vaccinated! Vaccination is the best mitigation to prevent the spread of COVID. Parents, also please upload vaccination cards in the parent portal for your children.

2. Please review our updated Mitigation Rubric for the most up-to-date information. We are at Level 4.

3. Limit the number of individuals you are in contact with who are outside your household.

4. Ensure your child has multiple correct fitting masks each day. CSD did purchase additional masks to distribute to staff and students as needed.

5. CSD will be following the new CDC Guidelines on Isolation and Quarantine.

6. CSD will be implementing Test to Stay for grades K-12 (TTS)

7. Please monitor your children’s symptoms and keep your child home when they are experiencing even mild symptoms and get them tested. Please wait until you have the results before sending your child to school.

8. CSD will also offer expanded hours of free COVID testing on January 3. Testing will be available to students and staff from 8 am to 12 pm at the Wilson Center (Board room entrance) located at 125 Electric Avenue. Register here for faster service. Registration will also be available on site. Tests will be administered on a first come, first served basis. You do not need to schedule a time for testing. You should anticipate having to wait as we expect a large number of individuals getting tested.

9. Lunch – CSD is committed to eating out lunch outdoors++ as much as possible. However, there are times when students will have to eat indoors due to weather conditions. Lunch will be served indoors during the following conditions:

– Temperature falls below 45 degrees

– Rain, snow, or other precipitation

++Parents, if you can volunteer your time and help supervise outdoor lunch, please contact your child’s school principal to get details on how to help.

To read her full message to parents, click here.

On Dec. 31, Atlanta Public Schools announced that, “To ensure safety amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases, all APS staff will be tested when APS reopens on Mon., Jan.3. All students will be offered testing next week with parental consent.”

Here’s the full announcement from Atlanta Public Schools:

ATLANTA – Atlanta Public Schools has announced the district’s plan for safely opening schools next week, which includes mandatory surveillance testing of all employees on Monday and weekly testing of students on a voluntary basis.

Monday, January 3

– District offices will reopen at 8 a.m. Teachers and other school-based staff will report to their schools for professional development activities. Representatives from Viral Solutions will be present at district offices for mandatory surveillance testing of employees and at each school to test school-based staff.

– All schools received a shipment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in mid-November. This includes masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning products.

Tuesday, January 4

– Students should report to school at the regular time.

– Weekly surveillance testing for students will remain voluntary. The district is urging all parents who have not already consented to complete a Surveillance Testing Electronic Consent Form. (http://tinyURL.com/HealthyAPS)

The district is continuing its strict COVID-19 mitigation protocols, which include mandatory testing twice a week for employees, voluntary testing for students, and mandatory masks for everyone inside an APS school or office building. Also, frequent handwashing, the use of hand sanitizer, and social distancing when possible are stressed for students and employees. Employees or students who feel sick should remain at home.

“The pandemic and this latest surge have put an enormous strain on people and systems,” APS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said. “We must all do our part and do what we can, while also remaining realistic that, unfortunately, the numbers are currently surging and will most likely do so for the near future. This means our decisions must remain fluid so that we may be responsive to incoming, new information and data.”

The district’s surveillance testing will continue to be conducted by Atlanta-based Viral Solutions. The partnership with Viral Solutions has been a key component of the district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy. Ron Sanders, President and Co-Founder of Viral Solutions, said keeping the schools safe and open is a main priority of theirs.

“Following the break and holiday gatherings, we must ensure that there is not a major spread at the beginning of the spring semester. Surveillance testing within the schools will play a vital role in mitigation strategies,” Dr. Sanders said. “During the current surge of the Omicron variant, we have seen the highest daily numbers and positivity rate since the inception of the pandemic. It is important that we remain vigilant and keep our guard up against Covid-19.”

Additionally, APS will continue to emphasize the important role vaccinations play in mitigating the spread of the virus. The district will host COVID-19 vaccination events for eligible APS students who are ages 5 and older, APS families, and APS staff on Saturday, January 8 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The drive-up vaccine events will be held at the following locations:

– Sutton Middle School | 2875 Northside Dr. | Atlanta, GA 30305

– Long Middle School | 3200 Latona Dr. SW. | Atlanta, GA 30354

– Maynard Jackson High School | 801 Glenwood Avenue SE. | Atlanta, GA 30316

– Mays High School | 3450 Benjamin E Mays Dr. SW Atlanta, GA 30331

First shots, second shots, and boosters will be offered. All vaccine brands will be available. Register at http://tinyurl.com/apsvax

“APS will remain committed to health and safety, while also balancing our commitment to the core business of teaching and learning,” Dr. Herring said. “Our strength lies in the practices and procedures we implemented and followed as the pandemic began and continued – practices and procedures we know already and will continue to implement as we strive to maintain in-person instruction for our students throughout the remainder of the school year.”

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About Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 50,000 students across 87 schools and five programs. The District is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 64 traditional schools, 19 charter schools, six partner schools, two alternative schools and five alternative programs. To learn more about Atlanta Public Schools, follow us on social media – Twitter (@apsupdate), Facebook (Atlanta Public Schools), and Instagram (apsupdate) – or visit us online at www.atlantapublicschools.us.

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