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Fulton County students heading back for in-person learning

The district says it will return schools to virtual learning on a case-by-case basis if it's needed.

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Students in the Fulton County school system will be returning to classes Tuesday, amid a contentious debate over whether now is the right time.

The district, which has more than 90,000 students, said last week in a statement that it was "steadfast in our commitment to offer face-to-face instruction, for those families who have chosen it," and that any return to digital learning would be done for individual schools "on a case-by-case basis, as needed."

The system was originally going to return students to classrooms last week, but delayed it until after the MLK Day holiday following the mushrooming of new COVID-19 cases in Georgia following winter break.

RELATED: APS teacher group protests Jan. 25 return to in-person learning

That gave them time to administer vaccines to hundreds of teachers and staff at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this past weekend.

While some parents objected, saying it was "not a good decision" and "this is distressing" in comments on the district's Facebook page, school system contends that currently, "the majority of our schools are reporting 2 or fewer cases."

In-person learning is not compulsory, and parents who wish to keep their students in a virtual environment continue to have the option to do so.

Nonetheless, one asked on Facebook, "why are you putting our teachers at risk?"

"Face-to-face instruction has already been delayed for one week to allow for our most vulnerable employees (those who met the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) criteria for 1A+) to receive the vaccination if they chose. We are dedicated and are strongly advocating for all employees to have this opportunity as soon as possible," the school system said. "The community is facing difficult times, and many have strong feelings about the best course of action for our schools. We understand and appreciate the different opinions."

Other parents noted "our kids need face to face for their development" and the district said that "we are in constant consultation with public health officials and to date, we have received no recommendations to change that plan."

Fulton County is not the only district bringing some students back today, as City Schools of Decatur also returns K-5 students to in-person learning.