It’s a shocking dissonance in a country where the pandemic has claimed over 150,000 lives. Indeed, mask-wearing is not a requirement by the county’s school system. pic.twitter.com/3VwzN3d0pE— Everything Georgia (@GAFollowers) August 4, 2020
In addition to Georgia, students in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Indiana are also heading back to school this week. For those that have reopened with students physically in school buildings, the situation looks surreal. “Back in April, teachers were considered heroes,” Newman said. “They told me that if my daughter wasn’t there today, she would be withdrawn.” The parent said she was wary of sending her child after hearing reports that teachers and students were not all observing social-distancing guidelines and failing to wear masks. Other teachers reported that their school “still hadn’t received any hand sanitizer.”
One teacher quit her job rather than be forced to go back to her school building. “In-person training and meetings are taking place without areas being wiped down or disinfected in between, and masks aren’t being worn at all times,” according to the AJC. “But that messaging has changed. But some parents are saying that they were put on a waiting list for online-only study — and while they wait, their kids are required to be in school. On Monday, Paulding County reopened, with some students attending classes physically in schools for three days a week and doing online “digital learning” for two days. One particularly chilling image shows students in a packed hallway in Paulding County, Georgia, outside metro Atlanta, only a few of them in masks:
This is a photograph from the first day of school in Paulding County, GA. “They’re telling me, as we’re on the waiting list, we’re highly encouraged to come to school,” one parent told the local news. Gwinnett County has one of the highest rates of coronavirus cases in the state, with 17,781 positive cases, 1,996 hospitalizations, and 240 deaths. Students can also decide to take virtual lessons only; the county reports that over 22,000 students signed up to return to school in person, with 9,000 students opting to go online only. Now, if you’re not willing to risk your life by going into a building unnecessarily, then you’re lazy.”
A photo of seniors standing in a tightly packed group at Etowah High School in Cherokee County also made the rounds. Hundreds of teachers reportedly reached out anonymously to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to raise the alarm about conditions. Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, today Etowah High School in Cherokee County started their first day of school. Here's a seniors photo that was taken this morning. By Bridget Read@bridgetgillard
Photo: Brynn Anderson/AP/Shutterstock
Just as the coronavirus reaches what health officials are calling a “new phase” of being “extraordinarily widespread” throughout the United States, with 2 million new cases reported in July alone, it’s time for back-to-school season. What are your thoughts? pic.twitter.com/FyTSNWeuGh— Stone (@stonecold2050) August 4, 2020
Georgia schools have only been given “guidelines” by their state public-health and education departments, not mandates. Elsewhere, in Gwinnett County, where teachers and staff met in person last week to begin readying schools, 260 district employees were told not to return because they had tested positive for COVID-19 or had been in contact with someone who had it. With no federal guidance on what to do, aside from a few mad tweets from Donald Trump insisting that “SCHOOLS MUST REOPEN,” states, counties, and cities are implementing a patchwork of different plans for the start of the school year, some online and some in person. The Paulding County school superintendent released a statement after touring a few schools on the first day, writing that things seemed “remarkably normal.” “We can’t wait for Day Two!” he said. Ashley Newman told local news that she has a 4-year-old daughter, and she was not comfortable leaving her at a nursery school with 15 other students. The rules state that “schools will employ social distancing as it is feasible and practical” and that while they “will encourage students, teachers, and bus drivers to wear masks … wearing a face mask is a personal choice.” Meanwhile, one high school in the county, North Paulding, reported that multiple members of its football team tested positive for the coronavirus just one day before the school was set to reopen. 195,435 cases of the coronavirus have been reported statewide, with over 19,000 hospitalizations.