By Christian Sanchez-Martinez
Parents of students enrolled at Oconee County Schools on Wednesday will be protesting the reopening plan from the school board. The protest will be held from 8-9 a.m. in front of the Oconee County School Board office at 34 School St. on Watkinsville.
Parents and teachers received a school reopening plan email on July 7 that required for parents to submit a commitment form by July that would require students to commit to nine weeks of either in-school or online classes without the option of hybrid classes. By failing to submit the commitment form students will be registered that they will be in-school. Students will be encouraged to wear masks, but will not make it mandatory. The school board has not met the minimum requirement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by not requiring masks and has not provided detailed plans on what opening the schools on Aug. 5 will look like or how they will determine school shutdowns.
Teachers and parents were not consulted on how schools will be reopening for the county. The guidelines provided seem like a rushed plan to open the schools, regardless of the spike of COVID-19 cases in both the state and county. There is no requirement for students or teachers to be tested prior to coming back to school, which is a major concern considering some families have traveled and have not been social distancing or wearing masks. There is an undertone of political ideologies being used based on Governor Kemp wanting to return to "normalcy", but this is a safety issue that puts our most vulnerable at risk - our children and teachers, who are going to be on the front lines on Aug. 5.
Outraged parents have called and emailed the school board regarding their concerns. Parents have joined together in a public Facebook group, Safety First – Reopening Schools, which as of July 13 had 956 members. The group is where members have been voicing their concerns and uncertainty of the new school year.
Additionally, 494 members have signed a petition to push back the commitment form deadline to July 20th . The petitions requests that a group of teachers and parents be formed to be part of creating the guideline for the reopening process. A minimum of two virtual town halls are also being requested for parents, teachers and staff to ask questions to the board and superintendent. The petition is also requesting for parents to be surveyed for the school board to create clearer protocols. Parents should be given the option of placing their child in hybrid classes. Hybrid classes can will decrease the class size and reduce the potential exposure to COVID-19.
The goal of the protest is to have the school board, with the input of the community, create a comprehensive reopening plan for the entire county, while requiring masks and providing a hybrid option to students to prevent COVID-19 infections to students, faculty and staff. The school board will be provided with a petition from the Safety First - Reopening Schools group to amend their current reopening plan. As parents the Safety First – Reopening Schools page are asking the community to put politics aside and show compassion to the most vulnerable in our community so we can survive this pandemic. The question isn't if the schools get infected, but when. Parents do not have the answers that will allow them to make a decision without compromising the health of their children.
Petition: https://www.change.org/p/oconee-county-board-of-education-safe- school-reopening-oconee-co- ga?recruiter=1105923945&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook &utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_abi&utm_term=share_petition&recruited_b y_id=201782d0-a5ca-11ea-a6b5-4fbc48b343ed
Christian Sanchez-Martinez has a daughter who is enrolled at Malcom Bridge Elementary School.
Petition: www.change.org/p/oconee-county-board-of-education-safe- school-reopening-oconee-co- ga?recruiter=1105923945&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook &utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_abi&utm_term=share_petition&recruited_b y_id=201782d0-a5ca-11ea-a6b5-4fbc48b343ed
Christian Sanchez-Martinez has a daughter who attends Malcom Bridge Elementary School in Oconee County