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DeKalb School Board website crashes as members meet to decide back-to-school plans

It's just one of several metro Atlanta school systems grappling with the decisions of how to educate during a pandemic.

DECATUR, Ga. — So many people dialed into a DeKalb County School Board meeting on Monday that the website crashed. It was just the latest highlight from around the metro struggle as schools make plans to get children back to class.

And it’s all we are hearing about from parents - they're all desperate to figure out what their options will be for educating their kids in the fall.

As for DeKalb’s ruling: it's too dangerous to return to campus, at least for now. They just hired a new superintendent nine days ago and Cheryl Watson-Harris told the group her top priority has been figuring out how kids can learn and stay safe.

She told the meeting they'll start remote learning on Aug. 17 and then they'll re-evaluate those plans every month to see if the COVID-19 transmission and death numbers are going down enough to return.

All the districts 11Alive spoke with said they've spent weeks agonizing over the best decision for their students.  It's been a full-time job to try and make these plans for many districts that are scheduled to return in just a few weeks. 

In Fulton County, they pushed their start date back two weeks, to Aug. 17. Face masks are required for teachers, encouraged for students. And Atlanta Public Schools announced its intention, on Monday, to do remote learning only for the first 9 weeks of school.

Gwinnett County pushed back its start date by one week and changed its plans to mandate face masks required for all teachers and students.

Clayton County is holding a meeting to vote Monday afternoon on whether they'll go back in person or stay online for the first semester of school.

Cherokee County announced they'll return on Aug. 3 and face masks will be optional but not required.

And Cobb County has delayed their first day to Aug. 17. Face masks are encouraged for students and expected of teachers. But at least one Cobb County parent doesn't think that's enough.  

“That's the concern, that we are not being heard. We have taken the time to do a petition and attend these meetings and we are not being heard,” the parent said. “The only alternative now is to home-school for the semester and possibly for the year. And we are two working parents, so that's not the best option for working parents. But if we want to make sure our kids stay healthy, that's going to be the option.”

Most districts have allowed parents to choose either in-person instruction or virtual learning for the fall. Right now, the Georgia Department of Education is not recommending students be proactively tested.

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