DeKalb schools hosting virtual town hall for parents Thursday

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

By Wilborn P. Nobles III

Families in the DeKalb County School District will receive an update Thursday during a virtual town hall on the district’s instruction plan for students.

DeKalb has been all virtual since March 2020 due to the coronavirus. Protests on both sides of the reopening debate have flared since then. The issue has spurred State Representative Viola Davis, a Stone Mountain Democrat, to call for DeKalb to cancel reopening plans for the time being.

Although the district was set to reopen buildings on Jan. 19, superintendent Cheryl-Watson recently delayed that plan amid rising infection cases.

“The decision to delay the reopening of our school buildings to students is a difficult decision and I assure you that we are doing everything in our power to reopen,” said Watson-Harris in a YouTube message released this week.

DeKalb will reopen schools once the district can ensure a safe return for students and staff, she said. Employees are focusing on implementing school readiness and mitigation strategies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help lower the risk and spread of COVID-19.

DeKalb chief operations officer Benjamin Estill II told the board that buildings have a 82% “preparedness rate” as of Monday evening.

Estill’s team is working to ensure all buildings are prepared with personal protective equipment and supplies for cleaning and hygiene, socially distant seating and space, water access, plumbing, HVAC systems and COVID-19 safety signage, according to the district.

Watson-Harris said the district also considers DeKalb’s positivity rate as a reopening threshold. A rate of 10% or higher prohibits a safe return to schools, she said.

Georgia health officials reported on Tuesday that DeKalb has had 719 cases per 100,000 people and a 14.6% positivity rate over the last two weeks.

The district is planning to send families a two-week notification prior to the expected date for in-person learning, according to a news release.

Parents can watch the virtual town hall from the school district’s Facebook page or its website at 6 p.m.

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