Make DeKalb County prove school building readiness and mitigation strategies by Jan. 25

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On Dec. 14, DeKalb County School District (DCSD) provided an incomplete return-to-in-person-learning plan for teachers to return to school buildings Jan. 4 and optionally, students to return Jan. 19.

And then on Jan. 11, DCSD said school buildings are 75% ready (or was it 86%, according to another board member?) and delayed schools reopening, indefinitely. Again.

On the same day, the AJC reported that DCSD board member Joyce Morley told Cheryl Watson-Harris that the superintendent knew for weeks the schools weren’t ready to reopen. 

Why aren’t they ready?

DCSD schools have been closed since March 12, 2020 - that’s 10 months! When parents and teachers heard the incomplete mitigation strategy and return-to-work plan, DCSD leadership said (with the help of $33 million in CARES Act funding) they were confident they could implement CDC-recommended mitigation strategies to reopen schools by Jan. 19. Meanwhile, nearby Decatur City Schools and Atlanta Public Schools (APS) provided its taxpayers, parents and teachers with specific amounts spent and outstanding needs for mitigation strategies. In December, APS even randomly contacted parents to safely walk through schools to see APS-implemented mitigation strategies for themselves. They’re both moving forward with in-person learning as planned and announced.

But not DCSD, who claims they’re “leaders” among Georgia school districts. Now even DCSD teachers, who were in the school buildings Jan. 4-8, say school buildings aren’t ready - beyond COVID-19 mitigation strategies. Physical work, like painting, fixing heaters, and regular building maintenance typically performed by the district has not yet been completed in some schools.

Teachers and staff also say their “two-month classroom supplies” provided by DCSD are inadequate, and include one-ply face masks, dried-out antibacterial wipes, one bottle of sanitizer that will not reasonably last through multiple hands, multiple times a day, and a single towel for the teachers to wipe down the classroom with, which they are instructed to wash at home each night.

Why does DCSD keep stalling on showing its CARES mitigation strategy spend, mentioning specific schools where it’s implemented mitigation strategies, and showing ANY photos and video on social media of mitigation strategy progress and general building readiness?

We need to see what DCSD has been doing for 10 months. Cheryl Watson-Harris has said in every email newsletter since August that she’s been regularly visiting schools. 

So she, DCSD board members, regional superintendents and local media should safely - while wearing masks - be able to visit empty DCSD school buildings and show with photos, video and specific school work orders (with dates) what they’ve been working on for 10 months. 

DCSD, show us the state of our children’s empty school buildings. It’s time for platitudes, distractions, vagueness and a general tone-deafness about our children’s education to stop. 

We don’t need a “number-one cheerleader,” as Cheryl Watson-Harris claims to be, in every email newsletter; we need a coach. A cheerleader chants and dances in front of fans - but a coach rallies her team to win.

We see you, DCSD. We’re taxpaying DeKalb County residents; now let’s see what you’ve been doing, with photos, video, walk-throughs, work orders, and specific schools mentioned by name - by Jan. 25. 

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