As pressure mounts, Georgia schools figuring out back-to-school plans

School leaders in Georgia are trying to settle on plans for the fall as pressure mounts to reopen school buildings.

Working parents rely on schools to keep their children engaged so they can do their own jobs, and many parents and teachers say remote learning last spring after schools shut down for COVID-19 left learning gaps.

Yet with coronavirus infection case numbers on the rise nationally and in Georgia, many are also worried about the risks of infection and school districts are caught in the middle. The added strain of budget cuts and enrollment uncertainty has school systems weighing options of in-school and at-home learning or something in between.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump increased the pressure, calling on districts to return students to the classroom or risk loss of federal tax dollars.

Florida’s education commissioner on Monday ordered public schools there to reopen, but so far Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has made no similar mandates.

Richard Woods, the elected state school superintendent who works closely with Kemp, said local leaders are in the best position to make their own decisions. “The effects of the pandemic have not been identical in every community,” he said through a spokesperson. “While it’s my belief that most school districts will be able to reopen safely this fall with precautions in place, I also believe local boards of education should have the flexibility to be responsive to the needs of their communities and the feedback they’re receiving from parents, teachers, and staff members.”

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