Classroom or remote learning: Some parents will get to choose

ATLANTA — School districts across the country are working to finalize plans for the upcoming school year to protect families as they deal with the coronavirus.

Recently, two school districts in Georgia announced their plans for the next school year. In Cobb County and Gwinnett County, officials are giving parents a choice to send their kids back to school or keep them at home for remote learning.

“We’re not going to compromise staff safety. We’re not going to compromise student safety, and we’re going to do that in a way that gives you the most flexibility as a parent,” John Floresta, chief strategy and accountability officer for Cobb County Schools, told WSB-TV.

Parents of children in the school systems have two weeks to decide whether their children will be online learners or if they will return to a face-to-face format.

The initial commitment is for the first semester.

For online learners, a single portal for schoolwork and communication between parents, students and teachers has been further developed, WSB-TV reported.

“If I do decide to send my child back, what does the classroom environment and what does the school now look like as compared to when they left on March 13?” WSB-TV reporter Nicole Carr asked Floresta.

“We won’t really know until we get this response back from our community. We think we know, but we won’t know until we actually get some parent input on how many parents want to keep their kids at home and how many want to go back into the school. Once you do walk in the school we are taking every public health safety measure and we’re implementing them,” Floresta said.

That includes strong recommendations for masks. There will be sanitizing stations, daily cleanings and fogging of buildings. School leaders said they’re observing and assessing ongoing teacher trainings and equipment needs to make sure they can support students between both formats.

“I’m excited for the 9th grade. It’s like a new beginning,” student Zion Goree said.

Other school districts have considered alternating weekday schedules that give students and staff a hybrid of face-to-face and online learning.

Morcease Beasley, a school superintendent in Clayton County, Georgia, said employees in his districts schools will be required to wear masks in school facilities, but students will not.

“Because we know that we can’t fiscally sustain requiring 55,000 students every day to wear a mask,” he told WSB-TV.

“When the elementary kids see their friends who they haven’t seen in months they’re going to want to hug them and touch them. How you going to keep that apart?” Tony McCrear, a father, asked.

Another superintendent, Mike Looney of Fulton County, said the district can’t responsibly reopen unless the COVID-19 spread is low to moderate.

“We’re going to do everything we can as a district to have school, but in many ways we are absolutely dependent on the community helping slow the spread of this virus so that we can have school,” said Looney.

Infection numbers can change all of these plans.