GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – Parents, teachers,and students in Gwinnett County have been protesting a decision to start the school year completely online.
Gwinnett County Public Schools is the largest school district in the state, and the area also has one of Georgia’s highest coronavirus rates.
“All of a sudden, two weeks before school, you know, the rug’s getting pulled out from underneath us all, and we’re scrambling,” mom, Kelly Willyard said.
Willyard told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that she understands the health risks and respects parents who wish to keep their children at home, but she and her husband also need to leave home for work during the day, creating a potential childcare problem.
“Dollywood is open. The grocery stores are open. The airlines are open,” Willyard said. “Corporate America is opening up, gas stations, what have you. And then we as parents feel like we just got left in the dust, and you all just figure it out.”
Ruth Hartman runs an unofficial parent Facebook group for Fulton County and says the argument over in-class versus virtual, and whether masks should be required, has gotten political when it should just be about the science.
“Look, they can protest, and that’s their right. However, there’s no science behind it,” Hartman said. “So even if they decide to keep their kids, you know, make them go face to face. That’s on them. I can’t back that at all.”
Doctor Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, says there are still a lot of questions about children and COVID-19.
“What I can’t tell you for sure, despite the South Korea study, is whether children under 10 in the U.S. don’t spread the virus the same as children over 10,” Birz said. “I think that is still an open question that needs to be studied in the United States. We certainly know from other studies that children under 10 do get infected. It’s just unclear how rapidly they spread the virus.”
Overall data in Georgia shows a staggering rise in COVID-19 cases with the highest number of them in the red zones, including Fulton and Gwinnett counties. In nearby Cobb County, the virus is also spreading aggressively.
“We are in that high spread or high transmission section right now. And we as an organization, cannot add to the transmission rate increasing,” Chris Ragsdale, Cobb County School District Superintendent, said.
Parent opinions seem to vary by zip code and if they can afford childcare, or private tutoring. In a June survey, 43% of Gwinnett County parents said they’d want all in-classroom learning, while just over half of them said they’d be uncomfortable with that.
Other opinions depend of personal experience.
“I’ve actually attended COVID related funerals recently, I mean, it’s happening, even if it’s not happening to you. It’s happening and it’s terrifying,” Hartman said.
In our area, Savannah-Chatham County Schools will begin the school year virtually.