State Watch

Parents in Georgia county hard-hit by coronavirus demonstrate for their kids to go back to school: report

In one of Georgia's counties hardest-hit by the coronavirus, parents are protesting for their children to return to classes for the upcoming semester.

"The virus is not going away, we know it's not going away. We have to enforce some sort of normal," one Gwinnett County parent, Joanne Bayouk, told CNN in an article published Friday. "And though our normal is going to change, our kids need to go back."

According to Georgia's Department of Public Health, Gwinnett County has recorded 14,442 COVID-19 cases. Across the state, the department has listed more than 156,500 cases and 209 deaths related to the virus.

Gwinnett County Public Schools announced Monday that classes would resume this year with online-only sessions, prompting hundreds of parents to join a private Facebook group to protest the new rules.

Kelly Willyard, the group's organizer, said it grew from 255 members on the first day to nearly 1,400 people by the second.

"As far as ideal an outcome now, it is going back to the two solutions, giving us the choice for digital and open schools," said parent Sheri Mitchell.

Concerned parents gathered outside the Gwinnett County Public Schools' Instructional Support Center on Friday to demonstrate against the decision to resume classes virtually.

Willyard told CNN the protest Friday would be only the start, adding that the group hopes to continue to state and national demonstrations.

Parents of students in Gwinnett County were reportedly given the option to vote on the education plan this year.

According to the reported results, 43 percent of parents preferred a return to in-person instruction, while 23 percent said they preferred a hybrid mix of in-person and online courses. Thirty-four percent of responders said they preferred online-only courses.

Sloan Roach, executive director of communication for Gwinnett Public Schools, told CNN the district initially planned to provide hybrid learning methods for the upcoming school year. 

"Like those who are protesting, we had hoped and wanted to start the school year in-person. We had planned to serve students in that manner, as well as digitally," Roach said. "However, out of concern for our students, families, and employees we had to make the very difficult decision to start entirely digitally. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Gwinnett County, using that information to determine when we can safely pivot to in-person instruction." 

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