Georgia’s largest school district said it will start the school year next month with full virtual instruction.
Gwinnett County Public Schools’s announcement Monday reversed a plan the district had previously announced to open with a combination of in-person and digital instruction. The district said the current COVID-19 situation required it to change plans.
“There is no replacement for face-to-face instruction, and that was our preferred model for next year,” said Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks in a statement. “With that in mind, we offered parents an option between in-person and digital instruction in order to be responsive to their wishes for their children."
Wilbanks added, however, that due to increasing COVID-19 cases in the county, the district decided to change course.
The virtual school year will start Aug. 12.
Wilbanks defended the district’s decision in an interview with NPR.
"I think we all understand that face-to-face instructions is always a preferred model, but that needs to be done at this time with a pretty good assurance that students and staff will be safe. And we did not feel like that was the case," he told NPR on Wednesday.
The district’s announcement Monday came shortly after Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempDemocrats anxious over Abrams silence on Georgia governor bid Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills All 3 men in Arbery killing found guilty of murder MORE (R) said he wanted students back in school due to safety reasons, according to NPR. The governor reportedly said students are safer in school “from a nutrition standpoint, child abuse, [and] human trafficking."
Wilbanks told NPR he is taking steps to try and minimize negative effects on children in need, including by expanding internet service via hot spots and purchasing additional internet-connected devices for students.
The district’s plan for the fall will differ from the digital instruction this past spring; teachers are expected to report to their schools to deliver their digital lessons, participate in staff development and collaborate with their fellow teachers to make digital instruction more effective for students, according to the district's announcement.
President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosMnuchin, Pompeo mulled plan to remove Trump after Jan. 6: book Republicans look to education as winning issue after Virginia successes McAuliffe rolls out new ad hitting back at Youngkin on education MORE have been pushing for schools to reopen in the fall, even as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country.
Georgia is among states where coronavirus cases continue to increase. Kemp has not issued a statewide mask mandate, and last week issued an order prohibiting local municipalities from mandating face covering requirements.