School Bus

FULTON COUNTY — Fulton School officials are urging students and families to take health and safety precautions over the long winter break to avoid further disruptions to the school year.

The system moved all high schools to remote learning in the week prior to the break as the number of students and staff in quarantine after COVID-19 exposure rose to unmanageable levels.

“We intend to resume school in January in the same instruction model of face-to-face or remote learning,” Superintendent Mike Looney said. “But in order for that to happen, we need [the community’s help].”

He urged students and parents to continue to follow protocols of face coverings, handwashing and social distancing during the break. And for those traveling, gathering in large groups, or who experience COVID-like symptoms, he encouraged getting a COVID test before returning to school.

“COVID-19 testing is completely voluntary,” Looney said. “However, being able to identify individuals with COVID-19 is a critical, proactive measure to keeping infected individuals from unintentionally spreading the virus to others.”

Fulton Schools has again partnered with a community agency, CORE, to provide free COVID tests for staff and students on Jan. 2. A previous event after the Thanksgiving break identified 64 positive cases which allowed the district to conduct contact tracing and quarantines prior to the return to school.

The need to stay safe is particularly important for teaching staff because Fulton is experiencing critical staffing shortages.

“We want [our employees] to return safely for yourself and your colleagues,” Looney said. “Testing is important, particularly if you traveled or were in large gatherings.”

CORE will have two testing sites, one north and one south, but Looney said there are other options available for testing. He urged people to go to fultoncountyga.gov/covid-19/covid-testing-sites to find a test site in their area.

Word of approved COVID-19 vaccinations is positive news for the district, but the timeline of availability for the general public is still up in the air. When available, district officials said they will follow the guidelines from public health on whether vaccinations will be required for students and staff.

“We will continue to monitor news or information from health professionals on the status of approval of a vaccine for staff and students,” Communications Director Brian Noyes said. “If the state requires a vaccine, we will follow guidance from public health and develop processes to accommodate the mandate.”

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.

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