JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — A Johns Creek City Councilwoman issued an apology to residents July 27 for any misunderstanding that may have come from a resolution she co-sponsored encouraging in-person learning to the Fulton County School District.
The measure was co-sponsored by Councilwoman Stephanie Endres and Councilman Chris Coughlin.
District officials announced in mid-July that, contrary to earlier plans, classrooms will not be open to in-person learning when school resumes later this month. The district had earlier floated a plan whereby families had a choice of either in-class or remote learning this fall. But the in-class option was withdrawn shortly after a surge in coronavirus cases surfaced in the Southeast.
Speaking at the council’s work session, Coughlin said that the sole purpose of the resolution was to ask Fulton County Schools to come up with a plan for getting students who wish to attend classes in person back into schools.
“We were not concerned with property values,” he said. “We were not mandating in-person schooling. We were supporting the decision made by the superintendent of Fulton County Schools, but we just asked that he [include] a comprehensive plan.”
Coughlin said backlash over the proposal, and how it was perceived, hit him close to home when his children were mentioned in the flurry of angry comments.
“Call me what you want,” he said, choking back tears, “but stay away from my children.”
The resolution sought from the district a detailed plan with contingencies including other programs to address neglect, abuse, hunger, daycare, respite, grading, outreach to children at risk and instruction materials. The resolution also called for the plan to be backed with sound rationale to inform the families the detailed plans and processes to get students back to schools so families and teachers can prepare, plan and set clear expectations.
School officials are now finalizing plans for a phased reopening, perhaps as early as mid-September, if the downward trend of COVID+ cases continues.
In her remarks at the City Council meeting, Endres said she regrets that the purpose and scope of her intentions were misrepresented by the media.
“At the end of the day, all Chris and I were looking for was on the day that the decision was made, every student or parent that had chosen to go either in-person or virtual, everyone had clarity and had facts to make their decisions on,” she said.
The school district decision, Endres said, left parents who had planned to have their children attend class out in the cold with no information to work on.
“So Chris and I merely put together a resolution to highlight the calls that we were receiving and have a voice for those families since the decision was made with no letter or mail or information so those families could effectively make decisions,” she said.
Coughlin asked to withdraw the resolution because the school district had issued a plan that addressed nearly all the issues sought.