Fulton, Cobb Plan To Start The School Year Virtually

Some of Georgia’s biggest districts–Cobb and Fulton counties– plan to begin the year with online learning.

Bita Honarvar / For WABE

Some metro Atlanta school districts changed course and announced Thursday they’re starting the upcoming school year remotely.

Some of Georgia’s biggest districts–Cobb and Fulton counties– plan to begin the year with online learning. The City of Marietta Schools may soon join them. In a letter to families, Marietta Superintendent Grant Rivera said he plans to ask the school board to vote on a proposal to start the year virtually at a called meeting Friday morning.

Fulton, Cobb, and Marietta had planned to start the year in-person with a remote learning option families could choose. However, with coronavirus data showing cases increasing in the region, leaders said they couldn’t justify asking students and teachers to return to schools and risk infection.

Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the county’s Covid-19 transmission rate is “high” and he doesn’t want the school system to contribute to it. Another factor in his decision, Ragsdale said, was there were too many questions the district couldn’t answer.

“Should we require masks?” he said. “Can we require masks? What happens if students/staff doesn’t [sic] wear a mask if we do require them? What will happen if? What will happen when? How will we know it’s safe?”

Ragsdale said it would also be difficult for schools to conduct contact tracing. He said public health guidelines for employees and students who may contract the virus aren’t clear. For example, after a 14-day quarantine, Ragsdale said, it’s uncertain whether a student or staff member would need a negative Covid test to return to school.

Earlier this week, Fulton County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney said he hoped schools would be able to resume in-person instruction.

“Assuming we can go back to school, which is what my desire is, we’ll obviously go back in the safest manner possible,” he told the Fulton County school board.

However, Looney said Thursday that Fulton sports teams had been practicing in groups of 20 athletes for about a month. The Georgia High School Association has said school sports teams can hold practices with up to 50 athletes at a time starting June 8. Even though Fulton waited until June 15 to start sports practices, Looney said the process didn’t go well.

The number of active COVID cases amongst our athletes and our coaches has continued to rise so much so that I have a hard time visualizing if with groups of 20 athletes we can’t safely get together and practice and condition, I’m not sure how we can foreseeably do school in a safe manner,” he said.