GCPS School Board, Don't Put Our Heroes at Risk!

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To the Gwinnett County Public School Board,

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically upended all of our lives.  Many of us have been sheltering in place for weeks, and we all crave feelings of normalcy.  It is likely in this spirit that Gwinnett County Public Schools announced that teachers and staff would be returning to school buildings full-time later this month to finish out the school year. 

We know our teachers and school personnel would bravely meet their necessary obligations, as they have continued to do throughout this pandemic. GCPS leaders have justifiably touted our teachers’ hard work and the prior adoption of its remote learning platform as examples of strengths that set GCPS apart from other metro area school systems. However, this shift in policy stands in stark contrast to those examples and threatens to unnecessarily jeopardize the safety of many GCPS employees, their families, and the community.  Gwinnett County is the only county in the state requiring its employees to report back to school full-time. Surely, if other counties can fulfill their end of the year requirements without having all teachers and staff return to school buildings, GCPS can do the same.  

Teachers and staff have been able to perform their primary responsibility of educating students from home--their most important duty--so their physical presence in buildings empty of students at the height of a pandemic is clearly a risk we should not take.  The demand for all staff to return to the school buildings full-time, adds additional stress for those with compromised immune systems, high-risk medical conditions, and employees with young children at home and no safe childcare options.

While GCPS has issued general guidelines for social distancing measures during the employees’ return to school buildings, the CDC has made clear that such guidelines should only be used when there is no substantial community transmission and there is a necessity to return to work.  Neither of these conditions exists. Within 24 hours of the school district’s announcement, Georgia reported 1000 new cases of COVID-19.  Gwinnett County alone has 1934 confirmed cases, the third highest figure in the state.  These are not the statistics of a crisis that has passed.

Whatever the intentions of GCPS leadership, this new policy is too dangerous for our teachers, school personnel and their families. GCPS has a reputation as a leader in many areas, please don’t take the risk of adding “transmitter of COVID-19” to that list. Don’t put our children’s heroes in harm's way.  We ask you to do the right thing...the return to schools can wait.