By Kristal Dixon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
With less than a month to go before it begins reopening classrooms, the Cobb County School District is reporting a bump in coronavirus cases among staff and students.
The district says 216 cases have been confirmed by the Cobb & Douglas Public Health Department since July 1, according to its website. That’s up from 141 cases reported on Aug. 27 when the district told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that an Acworth Elementary School staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.
Cobb schools has said it can’t be more specific about the cases due to medical privacy laws, but will update its tally every week on its website. The district relies on students and staff members to self-report potential cases. The health department confirms infections via testing and contacts others who may have been exposed to the virus.
The district also said it can not confirm the number of active coronavirus cases, but said it’s hopeful that public health data will continue to trend in the right direction ahead of its plan to reopen schools next month.
“The superintendent has been clear: our decisions will continue to be made on public health data and guidance for Cobb County and we look forward to our phased model beginning on Oct. 5,” a district spokesman said in a statement.
The Cobb County School District began the 2020-21 school year Aug. 17 with virtual learning. It will begin its phased approach to reopening classrooms Oct. 5 when kindergarten through fifth-grade students will return to face-to-face learning. Special education classes for kindergarten through 12th grade will also have an in-person option in the first phase of the reopening. When classes resume, after-school programs for those students will also be offered.
Students and staff will be required to wear masks on buses and in buildings, including when they are in classes, and educators will have to wear them whenever possible while teaching, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale previously said.
Cobb parents have until midnight on Sept. 20 to indicate if they want their child to return to the classroom for phase one or to continue with remote learning.
Phase two, which will bring back sixth- through eighth-grade students, has a tentative start date of Monday, Oct. 19. Ninth- through 12th-grade students are set to return Thursday, Nov. 5.
Cobb elementary school regular and special education staff members will be required to return to work at their schools on Sept. 21. Middle school staff members will report to the building Oct. 5 and high school staff members will go back Oct. 22.
As of Sunday, Cobb County had 18,495 cases, 413 deaths and 1,667 hospitalizations. Cobb’s cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks is now 196. Two weeks ago on Aug. 30, that number was 237 per 100,000 cases. Dr. Janet Memark, district director of the Cobb & Douglas Public Health Department, has said anything above 200 cases per 100,000 people is considered high community spread.