The Clarke County School District has set criteria for when it will be safe for children to return to classrooms, and it will require the number of active COVID-19 cases to fall by more than half.
Clarke County currently has about 450 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, according to Director of Nursing Amy Roark. That number should fall to 175 per 100,000 within a 14-day window before kindergarten through second grade returns, Roark told school board members last week. At 150 per 100,000, third through fifth grades can go back to in-person instruction. At 125 per 100,000, middle schools can reopen. At 100 per 100,000, Clarke County is no longer in “widespread transmission,” and high schools can welcome students again.
CCSD officials will be looking at other benchmarks, as well. The current positive test rate in Clarke County is 9.6%. If that number falls below 5%, it could be safe to reopen schools. Three consecutive 14-day periods of falling positive test results could be another sign.
The X factor is how the return of UGA students will affect Clarke County’s numbers. Students’ positive test results will be reported in their home counties, not Clarke, and the Department of Public Health figures don’t include antigen tests, which clouds the picture, Roark said.
Board President LaKeisha Gantt also gave an update on the Cognia report directing the board to improve its efficiency, trust, ethics training and policy review. “It is my belief that we are beginning to make progress in those areas,” Gantt said. “We still have work to do.”
Interim Superintendent Xernona Thomas said she recently spoke to a Cognia representative and was encouraged that the district is not close to losing accreditation. CCSD’s accreditation is currently “under review,” but losing it is a three-step process that won’t happen unless the district is downgraded two more times or “egregious actions have taken place,” she said. “Their goal at Cognia is always to help districts improve,” Thomas said. “It’s not their goal to make anyone lose accreditation.”
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