Georgia schools are closed for the rest of the Fall semester, and schools are unsure if any will return face-to-face by the New Year. The Georgia Department of Education reports 2,235 school closures, shutting more than 1.7 million students out of the classroom.
Governor Kemp signed an executive order mid-March of 2020 closing all public, elementary and post-secondary public schools in Georgia. The order – originally set to expire at the end of that month – has was extended through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and indications are that the school system will remain shut down into 2021.
Kemp has not made any statements regarding schools remaining virtual through Spring. But state school officials stated in an email sent to parents obtained by The Georgia Star News that teachers and staff should be ready for virtual learning, since opening back up on January 6 is unclear with the rise of COVID-19 cases.
State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a July statement, “Local districts have authority to chart their course for upcoming school year. Our role is to support them.” In a separate statement, Woods said, “we must choose compassion over compliance.”
When schools started reopening at the beginning of the school year in mid-August, some precautions included the use of face coverings, social distancing and split lunch hours to disperse less students in a cafeteria setting.
The Georgia Department of Education has been working closely with Gov. Kemp’s office as well as the Department of Public Health to ensure that students and parents have the most recent information on COVID-19.
The Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) stated in a survey analysis that “approximately 30 percent of educators self-identify as being at high-risk for COVID-19.”
Additional concerns in their analysis included 37 percent of educators having a student that needs “sustained supervision and/or assistance with schoolwork or has a child who needs childcare.”
PAGE added their most shared concern by educators is that “their schools and districts are not adequately keeping them informed about school opening plans or providing evidence that their concerns are being considered and incorporated into opening plans;” and that “Educators do not yet feel confident that they will be provided with the necessary training and resources to safely return to on-site instruction or be prepared for virtual options.”
According to the Georgia Health Department’s COVID-19 numbers, for ages 5-17, hospitalizations are at 441, which is 1.2 percent of total number of patients requiring hospitalization. By contrast, COVID-19 hospitalizations of 50 to 80 year old patients totals 20,230, or approximately 52 percent.
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Tiffany Morgan is a reporter at The Georgia Star News and the Star News Network. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org