The Cobb County School District spring semester begins Wednesday with community spread of COVID-19 continuing to grow, along with safety concerns following the death of a teacher over the holidays.
Wednesday’s start to the new semester will be like other Wednesdays during the current school year—a remote learning day—followed by face-to-face classes starting on Thursday for parents who chose that option for their children.
The final two days of the fall semester ended online-only as the “community spread” metric for COVID-19 in Cobb County reached its highest point—a 14-day average of more than 600 cases per 100,000 people—and has continued to rise since then.
As of Tuesday, that figure was 727 per 100,000, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. “High community spread” is anything more than an average of 100 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period.
On Christmas Day, Patrick Keys, a teacher at Hendricks Elementary School in Powder Springs, died after being hospitalized with COVID-19.
In a message sent out to district parents and staff following his death, Cobb school superintendent Chris Ragsdale said that “I am asking for you to maintain your commitment to your students in a very actionable way.”
He said the district “will continue to take every possible step to keep our hallways safe, our classrooms healthy and our schools open both remotely and face-to-face.”
But a group of parents has begun an online petition requesting an all-online return for the start of the spring semester, saying the conditions at schools are not safe for anyone.
That petition has more than 4,000 signatures, including Karin Lefler of East Cobb, who told East Cobb News that going virtual is needed “in order to save lives and teachers’ jobs.”
The community spread figure was one of nine points made in the petition, along with reduced local hospital capacity, risk of transmission from students to staff and the arrival of vaccines.
“Cobb schools are just not safe enough as it relates to Covid,” the petition states.
The Cobb school district has prepared a daily wellbeing checklist for parents regarding symptoms, contacts and other health measures.
A slight majority of Cobb school parents have chosen the face-to-face option for the spring semester, and Ragsdale has said there may be another choice window for parents over the winter.
For the six months from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, there were 1,570 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Cobb school district among students and staff, with 1,283 coming after a phased-in return to face-to-face classes began in October.
Those cases weren’t broken down further, and the district has not provided information on how many more individuals had to undergo quarantine due to exposure or possible exposure to someone with the virus.
- 23 COVID cases confirmed at Walton HS
- Cobb school board argues over buying sanitizing products
- Cobb health director urges caution in letter to school parents
- Cobb schools reveal face-to-face, remote options for spring semester
- Cobb school superintendent: ‘No metrics’ for COVID closures
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