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Many metro Atlanta schools update COVID guidelines as students return from holiday break

Here's what metro Atlanta schools are planning to change in their COVID guidelines as students and staff return from holiday break.

ATLANTA — The increase in COVID case numbers has schools and universities in and around metro Atlanta adjusting plans for students and staff when they return to school after the holiday break.

Here are the changes that have been announced so far: 

School Districts 

Atlanta Public Schools: UPDATE: APS announced a change of course on Saturday, Jan. 1, with students who were originally set to return to classrooms on Tuesday, Jan. 4 now slated for a virtual week the first week back from break. Plans are now to have students return to classrooms in person on Monday, Jan. 10.

When students return, the district plans to continue mitigation protocols, including mandatory testing twice a week for employees, voluntary testing for students and mandatory masks. Officials say the mask mandate could be lifted in early February if case numbers are low enough. APS will also be offering a vaccination event for students five and older, APS families and staff on Saturday, Jan. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Cherokee County SchoolsInstead of a 10-day quarantine, the required quarantine for students fever free for 24 hours will be five days since symptoms first appeared. Students will be encouraged to wear masks until the 10th day from having symptoms. However, employees will be required to wear masks until their 10th day without symptoms.

Clayton County Schools: The school district is pivoting to virtual learning to start the next semester, citing the COVID surge. According to a statement, students will be virtual from Wednesday Jan. 5 to Friday, Jan. 7. Employees will also work remotely during this time. Staff and students are expected to return back to class for face-to-face instruction on Monday, Jan. 10. District leaders are also encouraging families to get tested.

DeKalb County Schools: Students begin the second semester virtually on Jan. 5 through Jan. 7. All 12-month and 11-month employees, and 10-month assistant principals will report to work on Jan. 3. The district added COVID-19 testing will be available for employees at the Administrative & Instructional Complex in Stone Mountain Jan. 3 and Jan. 4, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students will return to face-to-face instruction on Monday, Jan. 10. Parents and guardians will be permitted to pick up learning devices for students on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4. The district also notes that breakfast and lunch will be able to be picked up from school curbside Jan. 5-7.

Decatur City Schools: As the school system prepares to return to in-person learning on January 4, the district is requiring all staff who have not been granted an exemption to get a COVID booster shot and have been fully vaccinated to receive one by Jan. 31. Masks will also be required indoors and outdoors on all school properties. The school system also plans to restart weekly COVID testing.

Fayette County Schools: The school district announced it's reinstating its mask mandate for all students, employees and visitors in order to continue in-person teaching and learning. The mask mandate will start on Wednesday, Jan. 5 for employees and visitors, and Thursday, Jan. 6 for students. Fayette County Schools said it will continue to monitor COVID cases and reevaluate the face-covering mandate the week of Jan. 24. An announcement about the decision will be sent to parents and staff no later than Friday, Jan. 28, the school district said. Additionally, it will be following CDC guidelines for students and staff who test positive for COVID, and should isolate for five days regardless of vaccination status. 

Forsyth County Schools: Students will learn virtually on Thursday, Jan. 6 and Friday, Jan. 7. The district then plans to resume in-person instruction on Monday, Jan. 10 if there is adequate staffing coverage. A final decision will be made by the close of business Friday, Jan. 7 in regards to Monday's instruction. Staff will begin reporting to work Tuesday, Jan. 4. Staff and students who have tested positive for COVID or were symptomatic on Friday, Dec. 31 to present, they will need to contact their school or supervisor no later than the close of business on Wednesday, Jan. 5. Students will also be able to pick up devices for virtually learning from schools on Wednesday, Jan. 5 where learning will be asynchronous. When in-person instruction does resume, Forsyth County Schools will continue to follow these practices: symptomatic individuals must stay homes, masks are strongly recommended and only essential visitors will be permitted in schools. 

Fulton County Schools: The district will move to remote learning for all students on Tuesday Jan. 4 through Friday Jan. 7. At this time, the plan is to resume face-to-face instruction on Monday Jan. 10. Staff will be reporting remotely Jan. 3 and 4, but report in-person beginning Jan. 5. Masks will be required in all schools from Jan. 10 through Jan. 21. Schools with positive COVID-19 cases equal to or greater than one percent of the student/staff population will continue with remote learning until the number of cases decrease.

Gwinnett County Schools: Students are set to begin classes on Thursday, January 6. Based on community spread and the latest mask guidance, masks will be required in all Gwinnett County Public Schools facilities as the second semester begins.

Henry County Schools: School officials decided to return to a level 4 mitigation, meaning starting Jan. 10, masks will be required for all indoor spaces, including school buses. 

Newton County Schools: Masks will be required for all students, staff and visitors at the start of the next semester. Teachers will return on Monday, Jan. 3 and students will return on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. 

Rockdale County Schools: UPDATE | The school district announced a shift, with students who were set to return to in-person learning on Monday, Jan. 10 now scheduled to return to the classroom on Jan. 18. Students will remain virtual until Jan. 14. after the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The district will also continue to offer free COVID-19 testing for students, staff and their families 

Colleges and Universities

Emory University: The university is starting its next semester online as a precaution.

SpelmanThe spring semester will start online on Wednesday, Jan. 12. Virtual classes will continue through Friday, Jan. 28 with in-person classes scheduled for Monday, Jan. 31. Campus move-ins will begin Jan. 24-28 and students will need to schedule an appointment before arriving on campus.

MorehouseMorehouse College is delaying in-person instruction for students until Monday, Jan. 31, the college announced on social media Thursday. The college will be open for remote instruction only from now through Friday, January 28, 2022.

Clark Atlanta: All classes will resume virtually on Wednesday, Jan. 12 until Friday, Jan. 28. In-person classes are scheduled to resume Monday, Jan. 31. Student residential move-ins will be delayed and begin during the week of Jan. 24.

Agnes Scott: Agnes Scott College will begin the spring semester with two weeks of virtual learning from Jan. 10 to Jan. 21. In -person classes will begin Jan. 24. Students will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival before moving into the school's Residence Hall. Students, faculty and staff are all required to receive their booster shots by Jan. 31, unless granted an exemption.