Parents express concerns about school plans in Athens

Dozens sign open letter

Parents are writing Clarke County School Superintendent Xernona Thomas and members of the Clarke County School Board, voicing their displeasure with recent changes to plans for the new school year in Athens.

The School Board voted recently to delay by more than a month the scheduled August 3 start of classes, which are now set to begin on September 8. That was followed by a District decision to begin the school year virtually, with no in-classroom instruction.

Following is the letter written to administrators in the Clarke Co School District...

Members of the Clarke County School District Board of Education and the larger Athens community –

We hope you and yours are well and safe during this trying time.

In light of the School Board’s recent decision not only to postpone the school year a month, but also to incorporate virtual online-only classrooms for the foreseeable (and undetermined) future, we felt we needed to make our voices heard during a time when those voices seem routinely ignored. We, the parents — especially the working moms: the executives, entrepreneurs, doctors, bankers, teachers, nurses, cashiers, restaurant workers, the backbone of the economy that drives this community — have watched as decisions that disproportionately affect us and our children are made without any solicitation of our input. We have felt left out of this process from the beginning, and, as is often the case, the burdens and ramifications of these decisions have fallen on the working mothers who are all-too-accustomed to making sacrifices that others are unwilling to.

That needs to change.

We understand the complicated decisions that must be made during this unprecedented time, and we have no interest in compromising the safety and health of our children, our teachers and our community. But rather than clear, resolute leadership and widely understood goals and benchmarks, it seems as if decisions are being postponed, a mere kicking of the can down the road toward some hazy, indeterminate time in the future. This indecision is throwing families’ lives into chaos.

Interim superintendent Dr. Xernona Thomas has said, “We recognize the best place for students to learn is in class, and the district is working to resume in-person instruction as soon as possible.” We are encouraged by this sentiment but concerned with its vagueness.

Every day our children are not in school is a day that they fall farther behind, and we are forced either to pay for extra childcare or miss work entirely, not only suffering severe financial consequences during an already difficult time but often derailing careers women have been working decades to establish. Working mothers who cannot work from home — the cashiers, bus drivers, restaurant workers, janitors, nurses, and other service workers — are forced to choose between two impossible alternatives: abandoning their children, or losing their livelihood. There have been many well-documented studies from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical and education organizations that have made clear that the social, economic and even medical costs of keeping schools virtual indeterminately are too much to bear. We love the schools of this community, have committed to the promise and opportunity of public school in Athens and have seen the benefits they have provided for our children. But the longer they are out of in-person school, the more we worry that parents, backed into a corner by what can seem like a lack of a commitment to in-person learning as soon as possible, will be forced to make choices outside of the system. This is the last thing anyone involved should want.

We are not asking for a reckless rush to in-person learning. We are asking for the Board of Education to be more explicit, open and accountable about its commitment to returning to in-person education as soon as possible. And we are asking to be part of the process.

We believe there are simple measures the Board of Education to adopt can adopt to ease the anxiety of Athens families. They are:

1. Weekly updates on how the process of moving toward in-person education is progressing. We do not want vague generalizations and long-winded bureaucratic rhetoric on YouTube channels. We want concrete, regular updates.

2. Specific benchmarks that, when met, will lead to ramping up preparation for in-person schooling. These can involve the rate of infection in the county and the university, as well as scientific results from other communities that have opened up in-person schooling.

3. Regular monitoring of surrounding counties that have opened, like Oconee County and Oglethorpe County, to see what can be learned from their experiences, their successes and their setbacks.

4. Clear assurances that there will be no more kick-the-can-down-the-road, cross-your-fingers-and-hope postponements, which only prolong uncertainty and lead to concerns that there is, in fact, no concrete plan at all.

5. A voice in the process. We have watched helplessly as people we do not know and are not involved in the lives of our families and our children have made decisions — or not made decisions — on our behalf, that affect our lives dramatically, without any solicitation of any thoughts we might have on the process. All CCSD stakeholders deserve a transparent process in which they have a voice.

We love this city, this county, this school system, all of it: Teachers, parents, administrators, coaches, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, janitors … in many ways, our public schools are the drivers of this whole community, the place we have chosen to spend our lives, to raise our families, to build our businesses. We only want the best for it. We feel that a clear, explicit, transparent plan for getting our children back to school safely is of the utmost importance. And we ask that we, the parents of Athens, not be forgotten: We ask that we be given a voice.

Signed, Parents of Athens-Clarke County Schoolchildren

Alexa Stevenson Hailey Campbell Genevieve Knox

Will Leitch Bertis Downs Josh Brooks Lillie Brooks Hope Cook Chase Cook Kari E. Abernathy Lucy Atkinson Allison Hodge Jason Hodge Rosemary Hunter Katy Brodrick  Todd Stichtenoth Casey Stichtenoth Breckyn Alexander Ginny Graham Amanda Eldridge Amanda Hardee White Whitney Knowlton  David Knowlton  Caroline Griggs Hilari Reagin  Katherine Little Odom  Georgia Anne Moore Anne Coppedge  Maggie Talley  Robin Roberts Susan Reynols  J McElhannon  Allison Nealy Jenny McCallen Kyle Marshall  Scott Talley Marie Garau  Aphrodite Douris  Emmy Scruggs Courteny Lawrence  Stephen Simmons  Ally Simmons Patrick Cates Candice Treadway  Caroline Copeland  Jeb Bradberry Cameron McElreath  Jean Sample Campbell  Mary Jill Springer Stacy Brown  Susan Banister  Carol White Jan Finney  Cameron Mulford  Greg DeMent Catherine Hardman  Leigh Hubbard  Laura Hogan Sarah Pittard  Elizabeth Chastain  Amy Chisolm Andrea Welter  Traci Hudson  Lauren Harrell Ron Menzies  Cristi De Martino Moore  Laura Fagrall Ragan Garrett  Heather Cates  Jennifer Barnhart Leah Sibley  Gigi Lastinger  Cecilia Reynolds Particia Hopaluk-Gay  Brian Campbell  Barndon Hicks Gretchen Pearson  Betty Schroeder  Jessica Burns Hally DeMent  Dan DaLamater  Sherry Mugovero Kris Rapp  A H  Carolyn Dilon Stacy Campbell  Jim Gillis  Linda Jerkins Sophia Estrada  Sis Bettress Richard Whitworth  Carla York  Micah Allen Jadon Allen  Maria Mueller  Elijah Allen Mickey Dillard  Joyce Allen  Katie Smith Rosie Alexander  Alice McMaster  Libby Carson Ginger Redwine  Andrea Lafera-Bianco  Adam Kaluba Eric Sewell  George Schroeder  Charme Bradberry Steve Greer  Susan Ferguson  Ross Reynolds Emma Hunt  Braden DeLamater  Elizabeth Milner Elizabeth Earl  Michael Earl  Usha Rodriques Missy Hutto  Malak  Chris T Diego Labrador  Aakriti Bhatta  Gianna Valdez Zoe Wu  Steve Middlebrooks  John Bellamy Donna Weekley  Chris Gilmer  Lauren Cook Susan McCullough  Jeffrey Trapnell  Christine Howell Ben Coppadge Anamaria Nelson Lindsay Van Note  Lori Drake honey Mp Maggie Napolil Donald Brooks Brea Davis Jessie Temples Jamie Ritter Lara Hilton Katie Johnson Catrina Cook Anna Simmons Henrietta Barns Wayde Bardswell Jr. Vedika Mahadevan Kahla McSherry Irami Osei-Frimpong Debra Pearce Linda Crowley Stephany Melton Kimberly Lopez Kara Briscoe C B Jemese Murry Kaliyah Middleton Aalia Sutton Christopher Gaunder Robert Poister Carrie Gleason Sam Drake MariCatherine Poister Kathryn Hopkins Mary Wimberly Ryan Marsh T’myra Robinson Sharif Parham Courtney Gibbs Jessica Pearce Angelina Petty Teresa Ford Tony Ryan Chantel Winters Ghitana Dinwiddie Claire White Karen Edwards D’Arlout Madden Felicia Herrera Brandie Brusher DeAndrea Logwood Tricia Miller Lauren Anne Johnson Mikel Williams Connie Wegmann

Tim Bryant

Tim Bryant hosts Classic City Today, 6-10 weekday mornings on 98.7FM & AM 1340 WGAU in Athens.

mobile apps

Everything you love about and more! Tap on any of the buttons below to download our app.

amazon alexa

Enable our Skill today to listen live at home on your Alexa Devices!