This is the first day of school in Paulding County, Georgia. pic.twitter.com/fzdidaAABM
— 🇯🇲Black🇭🇹Aziz🇳🇬aNANsi🇹🇹 (@Freeyourmindkid) August 4, 2020
On the heels of reports that a Georgia YMCA camp had 260 people test positive for COVID-19, we’re hearing about a high school in Paulding County, also Georgia, reopening for in person instruction. As their own football team dealt with an outbreak from working out together before the school year began, North Paulding High School opened as planned. The header photo is what that looked like. The image is incredibly disturbing. Kids are pressed up against each other, no social distancing even possible, and as far as I am able to count, there are only six and a half masks in the whole photo (the half is one in the distance that I can’t tell if it’s a mask or just a really pale kid). When you factor in that Georgia, like California, had a spike in cases since attempting to reopen the state in general, the photo takes on an ominous “lambs to the slaughter” feel to it. Unfortunately, that feeling is not just photo assumption. The conditions under which these kids are returning to school are worse than we thought. Even with fear and trepidation among the student body, they will face disciplinary measures that could be as severe as expulsion for refusing to attend school in person or even talking about it on social media.
North Paulding High School, about an hour outside Atlanta, reopened Monday despite an outbreak among members of its high school football team, many of whom, a Facebook video shows, worked out together in a crowded indoor gym last week as part of a weightlifting fundraiser.
Despite recommendations from CDC health officials, the district has called mask-wearing a “personal choice” and said that social distancing “will not be possible to enforce” in “most cases.” While the school provided teachers with face shields and masks and encouraged staff and students to wear them, they are not required and not all teachers have chosen to use them. One North Paulding teacher resigned last month over concerns about virus safety.
Some students at North Paulding say they were forced to attend school in person because all of the slots for the district’s virtual learning option were filled. A narrow sign-up window for virtual classes meant many parents missed their opportunity to enroll their children online.
It was a photo of one of those hallways, crammed with largely maskless students and with just a handful of masks in sight, that spread across the internet Tuesday.
The district superintendent, Brian Otott, sent a message to parents in the wake of the photo. He offered “context” for the photograph: “Class changes that look like this may happen, especially at a high school with more than 2,000 students.” There was little the district could do, he said, beyond encouraging masks.
James’ parents saw the photograph that had been circulating Tuesday and told him, “You are not going back to school again,” he said. But a few hours later, his mother had spoken to the school and was told that students who “chose not to go to school” could face suspension or expulsion.
On Wednesday, he went back to school. “I had no choice,” he said.
On Wednesday, the school addressed the controversy that had swirled around the viral photograph via an intercom announcement from North Paulding High School principal Gabe Carmona. In it, according to two people familiar with the situation, he stated that any student found criticizing the school on social media could face disciplinary consequences.
The article explained there was a plan in place that called for one-way foot traffic flows in the separate hallways. However, due to the circuitous routes it forced students to take to class, in some cases making them tardy, it was quickly abandoned, as you can see in the photo above. Not everyone is worried, one grandmother is quoted as saying she has faith in Gov Kemp (which, quite frankly, is her first mistake). Another student quoted said he only knows three kids – other than the football team – that have COVID and he and his friends figure, “if we get it, we get it.” I am astonished at the willful ignorance that pervades these stories. Just because Bobby had a mild case and survived with only a few lingering breathing issues is no guarantee that’s how the virus will manifest in Johnny. Johnny could very well have health issues for the rest of his life, *if* he survives.
The private sector isn’t faring any better. The Mummy and The Swamp Creature, or, as some call them, Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos, popped round to a few private schools that I’m sure meet all their indoctrination requirements for education. While there, they praised the schools for reopening successfully. Only they didn’t reopen successfully. One of those schools had to quarantine the entire fourth grade class, including the teachers, due to COVID-19. And the reason the fourth grade got taken out was some poor kid was asymptomatic who passed the hourly temperature checks, so there was no way short of a test to find out they were infecting the entire class.
And that’s the crux of it. It’s not that there aren’t plans in place for schools to reopen. I’m sure many of those plans are even well-thought out and researched. But they aren’t working. Either they are being abandoned or there are conditions they haven’t considered. Because we don’t understand this virus in all of its complexities. I don’t think politicians want our kids to die (although, I have some questions about DeVos’s wishes) but I do think they are taking too big a gamble when they are woefully ill-prepared. All we know for sure is that right now, the virus is winning.
I was just informed that the student who took these pictures from inside of the school has been suspended. https://t.co/XJ3KWltilg
— 🇯🇲Black🇭🇹Aziz🇳🇬aNANsi🇹🇹 (@Freeyourmindkid) August 5, 2020
Photo credit: Twitter