Teachers, parents protest outside Fulton Co. Schools headquarters over back-to-school plans

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Some Fulton County parents, teachers and staff say when virtual learning begins next week, it won’t be safe for everyone.

Jaynaia Griggs has two kids in the district.

“I am disappointed that teachers are not being treated as the professionals that they are,” Griggs said.

She was one of dozens who showed up outside of a Fulton County School Board session because she wants teachers to be able to teach digitally from home and not from the classroom.

“If the teachers are in the classrooms spreading COVID around to each other, how are we ever going to get back to normal?” Griggs told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson.

Fulton County teachers are expected to report to their classrooms to teach virtually to start the year.

Some teachers in the district expressed their concern about being exposed to the virus while at work.

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“I assume there are people right now in the building that are asymptomatic and I’ve just kind of accepted that fact unfortunately,” one teacher said.

“I think a lot of teachers think that the county is just not looking out for them right now and we’re kind of an afterthought,” another teacher said.

The district maintains that teaching from classrooms “allows all FCS employees an opportunity to ease back into the work environment and prepare for the eventual return of our students to face-to-face instruction.”

A work session on Thursday night included some words of encouragement about the district’s ability to phase in face-to-face learning after Labor Day.

“The numbers are all going down. We have to sustain that though,” said Julia Bernath.

But there are some concerns that Fulton County Schools needs to do its own testing to avoid outbreaks and school closures.

“If we don’t have our own system in place, we are not going to successfully open,” said Linda McCain.

“I have had a communication with an outside vendor that has some interest in providing testing. All testing is not equal and so we have to try and make sure we get the type of test and the validity of the test results in, so we’re working on that,” Fulton County Superintendent Mike Looney said.

The district isn’t planning to start full face-to-face learning until there are fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in Fulton County.

In Johns Creek the rate is just above the target, but in Fairburn the rate is nearly quadruple the target.

“It is a real fear of mine. I have parents and sisters at home who are vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Ethan Cole, who is a junior in Johns Creek.

Even with the lowest rate of the virus in the county, Cole told Johnson that he’s not rushing to go back to school.

“I know my friends and I will be wearing masks, but I don’t know about the up-teen thousand other kids at my school,” Cole said.

For parents like Griggs, they say everyone should be at home including her children’s teachers.

“These teachers matter to us. My child’s education matters, but that education is not worth anybody’s life.” Griggs said.

Johnson learned the district does its own contact tracing internally, but as for their own testing, the district said it is in the early stages of seeing what is possible.

The superintendent said he was hopeful the new mega testing site near the airport would give a lot more access to testing by the end of the month.

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