Fulton County Schools’ start to the 2020-21 academic year, which came with online-only classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had some issues but was “smooth” for the most part, district leaders said.

With the district requiring its staff to be on their schools’ campuses to teach students (unless they had a legitimate reason not to), even virtually, Superintendent Mike Looney said as of Aug. 19, two days after the year started, 50 teachers and administrators have contracted the virus and are being treated for it.

“In addition to that, we have a number of employees quarantined because they were in direct contact with these people,” he said.

Looney was among the leaders who spoke at the Fulton Board of Education’s Aug. 20 meeting at the South Learning Center in Union City. In an email responding to the Neighbor’s questions about the 50 COVID-19 cases, district spokesman Brian Noyes said those employees contracted the virus between Aug. 3, when they returned to school for pre-planning, and Aug. 19.

Another issue was the district’s remote learning hotline getting “flooded” with 10,000 of its 12,000 calls the first day of school with requests from students and/or parents for help in resetting their device or software passwords, said Emily Bell, the district’s interim chief of information technology.

“Due to that demand, we’ll add (17) staff members starting Monday,” Bell said.

Despite those problems, district leaders said the return to school went well.

“Yes, there have been glitches. There always will be glitches, but I want to thank everyone,” District 1 board member Katha Stuart said.

District 5 board member Linda McCain added, “I think there was a very smooth opening, and there was a lot of preparation to go into it.”

Said Looney, “It hasn’t been a perfect start, but it’s been a smooth start. Our teachers and principals have done a wonderful job … in these challenging times.”

He also said district leaders have studied neighboring school districts and their COVID-19 case data, including ones that opted to start the school year with in-person classes.

“We actually visited a neighboring district this week,” Looney said.

A recent decline in the county’s COVID-19 cases means the district could return to in-person classes, though in a phased approach, sooner than expected, he added. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website, the seven-day moving average of cases in Fulton has dropped from 434.1 on July 21 to 186.1 on Aug. 20.

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