DeKalb County Schools shares COVID-19 safety protocol for students, staff

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DeKalb County School District headquarters in Stone Mountain. (AJC FILE PHOTO)

By Wilborn P. Nobles III

The DeKalb County School District has released the safety plan it will implement when school buildings reopen for in-person learning next month.

The strategies emphasize that individual schools will be tasked with upholding mask use, social distancing, hand washing, cleaning, and contact tracing in collaboration with health officials.

According to the district’s website, mask wearing will be mandatory inside of all DeKalb school buildings. Parents will be responsible for supplying masks to children, but schools can contact the district’s Business Services department to order additional face coverings or other COVID-19 related supplies.

The district wants schools to limit classrooms to 12 to 16 students “as feasible.” Desks should be distanced and seats should be assigned.

Plexiglass will be installed at reception desks and other “high traffic areas.”

The protocols come after parents and staff staged protests, questioning the safety of reopening schools and asking for clarity on what to expect. A district spokesperson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that everyone must “focus on the mitigation strategies to reduce transmission and prepare for re-opening schools in January 2021.”

Students and staff will be tasked with temperature checks. Schools visitors and activities will be limited to external groups or organizations, the district’s website stated. Schools will also be asked to evenly space out playground use, as well as the arrival and dismissal of students.

Hand washing will be required before and after playground use, and the district is asking students to limit the use of playground equipment.

Custodians will provide the daily routine of disinfecting buildings, but the district stated “they cannot be expected to do this alone.” Staff will be provided with cleaning supplies to clean their workspaces and classrooms after their use.

District officials also said they will increase outdoor air flow rates to dilute contaminates in the school’s ventilation systems.

Reaction was mixed. Some parents on Facebook, like Austin Elementary parent Ellen Emery of Dunwoody, thanked the district for reopening schools. Several others, however, responded unfavorably to the district’s plan.

Although meal plans were not mentioned, teachers have pointed out that the district is planning to have students eat inside classrooms. Several educators criticized this plan because the teachers would have to stay indoors with the children.

District parents and employees have previously mentioned that many aging facilities may not be equipped for a safe return to schools.

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