042419_MNS_super_finalist Mike Looney

Mike Looney speaks during an April 17, 2019 news conference after Fulton County Schools leaders announced he was named the superintendent finalist.

Fulton County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney, Ed.D., won’t announce until June 29 whether or not the district will return to in-person instruction in August, when the 2020-21 academic year starts.

But based on a recent Twitter message, he would prefer in-person classes but may be forced to choose continuing virtual classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“PSA: To be brutally honest, we need everyone to act now. We're seeing a significant rise in cases and that has to change for us to go back to face-to-face instruction,” Looney tweeted June 25. “Please practice social distancing and wear a face covering now. We REALLY want to see our kiddos on August 10th.”

The Fulton Board of Education will host a special called meeting June 29 to both approve the district’s 2020-21 budget and decide on which of the three instruction scenarios they can choose from: in person, online or a combination of both.

Brian Noyes, a district spokesman, said Looney’s tweet “has garnered a lot of attention and support.”

“We are following the data from the Georgia Department of Public Health and Fulton County Public Health on the number of cases in our community very closely; however, there is not one specific data point or magic number that he is looking for that would make the decision on returning (to) face-to-face (classes),” Noyes said. “We will continue to consult these agencies to learn what they rank as high risk or spread in our county.

He said Looney “would prefer to have traditional face-to-face learning, but only if it is safe to do so.”

“He has stated publicly many times that virtual options cannot replace the learning that happens with a caring, committed teacher in-person in the classroom,” Noyes said. “We want our students to be back in our schools. Even in his tweet, he says “We REALLY want to see our kiddos on August 10th.

“If the number of cases (goes) up, we could be forced to go to remote learning, but that is not our preference. There (are) still several weeks between now and the anticipated start date of August 10 and the data will hopefully get better.”

Dozens of individuals have posted their own tweets in response to the superintendent’s.

“Thank you for watching the numbers and advocating for the safety of teachers and students!” one woman said.

One parent added, “I plead with you Dr. (Looney) to look at offering rigor courses online. Our children take many honors and AP classes and don’t want to decrease to on level courses to go virtual. Not only will this impact their ability to apply for scholarships, it is bad for college.”

Another woman said, “The sad irony is that it’s largely the people who are desperate to return to F2F instruction in the fall who are anti-mask.”

One man added, “Amen .... finally someone with common sense not afraid to tell it like it is... Refreshing.”

The board’s meeting is June 29 at 3:30 p.m. at the North Learning Center in Sandy Springs. It will be televised on Comcast Channel 24, AT&T Channel 99 and Google Fiber TV Channel 145, and will be streamed live on the FCSTV Communications website by visiting www.fultonschools.org/fcstv.

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