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Marietta schools to reopen classrooms to more students

By Kristal Dixon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

With Labor Day past and no spike in coronavirus cases, Marietta City Schools has announced plans to bring upper grade levels back to the classroom. 

Marietta City Schools moves to the second phase of its reopening plan next month and will hold a series of virtual town halls in October for district officials to inform parents of next steps and take questions. 

The school system on Monday, Oct. 5 will open classrooms four days a week to students in third through fifth grade and special education students in grades six through 12. Those students will get their lessons done remotely on Fridays.

The district is expecting 2,787 students to return to the classroom and 1,343 students to continue with remote learning for the second phase, said spokeswoman Jen Brock. Marietta’s middle and high school students will continue with virtual learning.

Marietta City Schools began the first phase of its reopening plan on Sept. 8 for prekindergarten through second grade and special needs students up to fifth grade. Just like the first phase, parents of students who are eligible to return on Oct. 5 can choose instead to continue with virtual learning.

Superintendent Dr. Grant Rivera said the first phase of the reopening has been successful. No classrooms have been closed due to coronavirus cases, he said. As of Friday, the district has five active COVID-19 cases among students and four from teachers, according to its website.

Rivera also said the drop in community spread of COVID-19 and the system’s practices of temperature checks, required face masks, meal delivery to classrooms and cleaning and disinfecting operations have made it possible for the district to implement phase two of reopening classrooms.

When the Marietta City School Board approved the system’s phased-in approach on Aug. 11, the 14-day positive case rate in Cobb County was 433 per 100,000 people, the superintendent said. As of Thursday, the two-week case rate per 100,000 people for Cobb is 137, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“We feel really confident that we can execute what we’ve promised,” Rivera said.

Marietta plans to offer in-person learning Monday through Thursday to Marietta Sixth Grade Academy and Marietta Middle School students starting Oct. 26 and Marietta High School students beginning Nov. 9. Families will be allowed to continue with virtual learning.

Marietta will host virtual town halls at 8 p.m. Oct. 6 and 4 p.m. Oct. 8 for Sixth Grade Academy parents; 4:30 p.m. Oct. 6 and 8 p.m. Oct. 8 for middle school parents; and 8 p.m. Oct. 13 and 4 p.m. Oct. 15 for parents of high school students.

Rivera said the district waited until this week to announce the return dates for middle and high school students because health experts recommended they wait two weeks after Labor Day to determine if a spike in cases was imminent. The increases seen following the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays have not been observed.

However, Rivera told the AJC that Marietta City Schools will not accelerate its phased approach for in-person learning “out of respect for families’ planning schedules.” One of his greatest fears throughout the pandemic, he said, was whether decisions made by the system would create a whiplash effect on parents and teachers.

“I think we have to have a sensitivity to that because it just doesn’t impact school operations, but it impacts families, planning and scheduling,” he said.