- Asa G. Hilliard
FCS Coronavirus Update for January 7, 2022
On Monday, January 10, 2022, Fulton County Schools (FCS) will return to face-to-face instruction as planned. However, we are facing a challenge related to staffing schools. With the Omicron surge over the holidays, hundreds of employees have reported positive COVID-19 test results.
Our employees are the heart and soul of the district. We appreciate each one and their dedication to your students and our community. In the coming days, the district will announce additional steps we are taking to provide support for them and our families.
Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel of this wave. Health officials have predicted the peak of the current surge will happen soon, which indicates the number of positive cases should decline quickly.
Below we lay out some of the more pressing questions and answers about how schools will operate this semester. It is a lot of information, but we want to provide you with as much detail and rationale behind these items as possible.
Will FCS be face-to-face or virtual?
Face-to-face is the best educational model for students, and FCS is committed to maintaining in-person instruction.
- The district’s standard will be face-to-face; however, individual classes and schools may be required to switch temporarily to remote learning based on the local school data.
- We will continue to use mitigation strategies – such as remote learning decisions starting at the class level, then grade, school and city levels progressively – to keep everyone safe while avoiding disruption in learning, as much as possible.
Why has the district changed COVID mitigation decisions?
We are adapting our strategies in response to the evolving realities of this pandemic. COVID-19 has changed, which means the data points and decision matrix the district uses to respond have also evolved.
- The Omicron variant is different than previous variants and reportedly less severe.
- As the COVID-19 vaccine, booster and treatments have advanced, the community has become better protected.
- Research has increased our knowledge and mitigation efforts have continued to improve.
As these factors have changed, direction from public health officials has changed, too. For example, the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health (GaDPH) have recently announced adjustments to their recommendation for schools regarding quarantining and isolation. In short, these standards are now:
- Isolation: Anyone who tests positive for the virus must isolate at home for five (5) days. After the 5-day isolation period, students/staff can return to school if they are asymptomatic and continue to wear a mask around others for five (5) additional days. It is very important that parents keep their children home if they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, even beyond the five (5) days if their symptoms have not improved or resolved.
- Quarantine: Students who have been directly exposed due to a school exposure to COVID-19 can stay in school as long as they continue to wear a mask for ten (10) days after the exposure and remain symptom free/asymptomatic. Questions regarding individual circumstances can be confirmed with a representative of FCS District Health Services or FCBOH.
Please note if your child(ren) tested positive or had an exposure over the winter break (Dec 17 through Jan 2nd), please adhere to the 5-day isolation/quarantine time period per your healthcare provider and/or the instructions you received from the testing site. You do not need to wait for the Response Team or a School Nurse to contact you to return to school upon completion of the isolation/quarantine period. Please do not send your student to school if they have not completed the required isolation period and/or if they are exhibiting symptoms or are sick.
What factors and data will FCS use in making decisions?
As we go forward, we will not make decisions based on a single data point, but rather a collective review of multiple factors. FCS no will longer utilize the Closing Matrix nor Mitigation Matrix.
The approach will be to make decisions about remote learning and mitigation factors based on data starting at the school level and focused on these questions:
- Will employee absences affect the operational coverage of a school?
- Are there sufficient staff available for safety and instruction?
- Is there a nexus of positive cases to exposure at school?
- Are there three (3) or more connected cases, and can this cluster be isolated?
- Will the number of positive cases impact instruction?
- Is community spread stretching health resources?
FCS will continue to use the following reports regarding COVID-19 data. They are available on the FCS website and updated regularly:
- FCBOH Epidemiology Report – measures community spread with several data points
- FCS COVID-19 Report By School – measures the total COVID-19 counts and percent by school
- FCS 14-Day Positive Trend Rate – measures positive rate per 100,000 by municipality
Will masks be required?
Masks will be required indoors for all FCS schools and facilities through January 21, 2022. After that, masks will be optional and only mandated based on public health directives for those in quarantine.
What is next?
We understand this is a complicated, ever-changing situation and it has created inconvenience and frustration for all of us. FCS keeps safety as our primary concern and continues to balance decisions about COVID with the goal of maintaining in-person instruction. Based on the new guidance from Governor Kemp and GaDPH, we will re-evaluate our current strategies for contact tracing; however, due to the surge they will remain in place for now. We appreciate your patience and dedication as we all work through this together.
- Don’t come to school if you are sick.
- We strongly encourage families to participate in vaccination and testing opportunities.
- Please follow public health guidelines and report any positive COVID-19 cases to the Parent or Employee portals.