During a work session Friday morning, the Floyd County School Board spent an hour and a half discussing COVID-19 with Northwest Health District Director Dr. Gary Voccio and how it has impacted the school year so far.
The school system wants to have more local control over how they go about the virus and quarantine measures, instead of strictly following guidelines set forth by the DPH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Brian Kemp.
Under the current guidelines, if a student in a classroom tests positive for COVID-19, the entire classroom has to go into a 14-day quarantine, where they must go to virtual learning. The school system also has their classrooms set up with partitions and spaced out seating charts to prevent any close contact.
Board member Melinda Strickland voiced concern for kids who have been quarantined multiple times, saying it makes it difficult for students to keep up with coursework.
Strickland and parents present at the meeting said while classrooms might be quarantined, the students are still going out and not truly following the quarantine procedures.
Voccio and board member Chip Hood brought up the notion of “COVID fatigue”, or people getting tired of following the social distancing guidelines and still going out to see people. Because of this, more students, especially high schoolers, are going out and meeting up with friends, when they technically should be staying home.
“I’m very concerned about the fatigue and how the holidays especially will affect it,” Voccio said.
While COVID-19 cases are rising in the county, board members pointed out that the hospitalization rate has gone down and that those who are being hospitalized are in higher age groups. Strickland said that they would feel that the strict guidelines would be more important if kids were considered higher risk, but current research says otherwise.
“People die everyday from doing different things, but we don’t keep them from doing them,” she said.
According to Voccio, one of the risks of having children test positive for the virus is the potential of spreading it to older teachers, family members and other people who are potentially high risk.
Board members and parents also voiced displeasure with Kemp and Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey for not letting them make local decisions.
“I understand his perspectives, he doesn’t want to shut the economy down again,” Chair Tony Daniel said. “I just wish he would try to understand it from public education’s perspective... What bothers me is it has gotten political.”
Daniel went on to say that children aren’t receiving the proper education they need and it’ll show years down the line when they take standardized tests.
When asked by board members if there is any other proactive measures schools can take, Voccio emphasized that handwashing, social distancing and mask-wearing are still the best and proven practices to fight against the virus.