- School reopenings during the novel coronavirus pandemic continue to be a problem, and reports from Georgia’s first week of school aren’t reassuring.
- A second-grader tested positive on the first day of school, forcing the closure of a classroom.
- 20 other children and the teacher are now forced to quarantine at home.
- A photo of a crowded high school hallway revealed that schools seem more concerned with punishing students who criticize them than they are with imposing stricter safety measures that protect the students and teachers.
The reopening of schools remains a sensitive topic in many countries, as health officials have yet to figure out policies that can ensure the safety of students, teachers, and everyone’s families. Facebook and Twitter just censored President Trump and his team for lying about children being immune to COVID-19. That’s not the case, as children of all ages can get infected and they can experience severe cases as well as post-COVID-19 complications. Researchers still have no idea how infectious children may be, although some studies say that kids over the age of 10 are just as contagious as adults. Even if children do not develop severe cases of COVID-19, they can still become a threat to teachers and their families.
The best examples of how not to reopen schools come from Georgia. A second-grader tested positive for coronavirus on the first day of school, says one report. Another story depicts a more dire story in a high school, where officials announced that students who criticize the school’s reopening policies on social media will be punished.
A classroom of the Sixes Elementary in the Cherokee County School district was temporarily closed on Tuesday, just one day after school began. Deep cleaning was necessary after a second-grader tested positive for COVID-19, CNN reports. The teacher and 20 other students were asked to quarantine at home for two weeks.
Cherokee County recommends mask use but doesn’t require it even if social distancing is not possible. The district said it will require masks only if there is a statewide mandate in place, but Gov. Brian Kemp has fervently opposed mask mandates.
The same report notes that five employees of the Marietta City Schools in Georgia tested positive with one additional presumptive positive. Georgia’s largest school district, Gwinnett County Public Schools, reported that as many as 260 employees have either tested positive or have been exposed to COVID-19 patients.
The most jaw-dropping story comes from BuzzFeed, as the blog followed up on this image that circulated online earlier this week. It shows a Georgia high school hallway that is packed with students. Only a few of them are wearing masks:
This is the first day of school in Paulding County, Georgia. pic.twitter.com/fzdidaAABM
— 🇯🇲Black🇭🇹 Aziz 🇳🇬aNANsi🇹🇹 (@Freeyourmindkid) August 4, 2020
That’s North Paulding High School, which reopened on Monday despite an outbreak among members of the football team and cases affecting staff. Teachers were exposed to colleagues who tested positive, but the school won’t formally confirm any coronavirus infections citing privacy reasons. The school’s administration won’t even tell other staffers who may have been exposed to the illness. Instead, they’ll have to wait for contact tracers to reach out.
Some students, teachers, and families are worried about the risks of getting COVID-19, while others have the same ignorant “if I get it, I get it” mentality that we’ve seen elsewhere during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Needless to say, that puts lives at risk.
Students who did not enroll in the limited virtual learning option were forced to attend school in person. Not coming to school wasn’t an option, as students who failed to show up would risk suspension and expulsion. Other families had no choice but to send their kids to school because they lacked the necessary equipment — a computer or tablet for each child — that would let them study from home.
The district isn’t requiring face masks either, calling them a “personal choice.” Moreover, school officials said that social distancing “will not be possible to enforce” in “most cases.”
If that’s not enough, the final paragraph of BuzzFeed’s detailed coverage should send you over the edge:
On Wednesday, the school addressed the controversy that had swirled around the viral photograph via an intercom announcement from North Paulding High School principal Gabe Carmona. In it, according to two people familiar with the situation, he stated that any student found criticizing the school on social media could face disciplinary consequences.
Attempting to censor criticism that could potentially save lives is definitely not the way to handle any of this. Georgia’s COVID-19 caseload surpassed 201,000 as of Thursday afternoon. Nearly 4,000 infected people died so far in the state.