Georgia’s largest school district now has to re-assess back-to-school plans
The Gwinnett County School District (GCPS), Georgia’s largest school district, has confirmed that approximately 260 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been directly exposed to the virus. The district is set to open for online learning on August 12. This is just one of multiple schools and camps to have experienced outbreaks this summer.
GCPS, which is located in the metro Atlanta area, elaborated on the situation in an email to CNN. “As of last Thursday, we had approximately 260 employees who had been excluded from work due to a positive case or contact with a case,” GCPS spokeswoman Sloan Roach said. “This number is fluid as we continue to have new reports and others who are returning to work.”
Gwinnett County Public School teachers began in-person pre-planning Wednesday, July 29, at 141 facilities throughout the county. By the next day, approximately 260 employees had been excluded from work due to a positive case or contact with a case. It took one day for this to happen.
This story is reminiscent of what occurred in an Indiana school last week, when Greenfield-Central Junior High had to close down mere hours into their first day of school because one student tested positive for the virus. The Hancock County Health Department confirmed in a statement that the student had been tested for the virus days earlier, but the school wasn’t notified of their test result until halfway through the day. As for why the student was allowed at school before his test result was conclusive — well, no explanation has been given.
In Georgia, Gwinnett County has consistently had one of the highest case counts in the state, but many district parents held a protest to have kids go back to school in-person last month, according to CNN. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, as of Sunday, there were 17,781 positive cases in Gwinnett with 1,996 hospitalizations and 240 deaths.
“Through tracing, we know that the majority of these cases are the result of community spread, meaning we have people who have called in to report who have not been at school or work,” Roach further explained. “Given the number of COVID cases in Gwinnett, we would expect to see positives among our employees based on the community spread in our county,”
Which led to Gwinnett having to close down the school before they even open. This unfortunate experience also shows that even without children present, teachers’ lives are put at risk. Many teachers spoke on condition of anonymity to the Atlanta Journal Collective to lament the lack of effort being put forth by the GCPS to prevent community spread:
“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, said several teachers who didn’t disclose their names when contacting the AJC. Others added that their school still hadn’t received any hand sanitizer.”
Ashley Newman, a former GCPS elementary teacher, said she felt like she had no choice but to resign from her teaching position. “I’m trained to teach. I’m not a health care expert,” she said. “In April, we were called heroes and people were saying we need raises. Now we’re called lazy because we just want to be safe doing our jobs.”