Cobb remains one of few metro Atlanta with schools fully in person


Hannah Watters

With national COVID-19 cases increasing to levels that surpass stats from March 2020, the debate of public safety, especially that of children, lingers within the minds of the American people. Particularly to the state of Georgia and metro Atlanta, the Cobb County district remains in the minority within its decision to not close its doors and shift to the virtual space.

Zioni Moore, News Editor

The pandemic brought a heightened sense of awareness within the American people, resulting in dozens of issues becoming aired out to the public. Coincidentally, the nation’s educators, students and parents all contrast with one another surrounding the decisions to remain open or restart virtual school; a chain reaction directly caused by the rising cases from severely infectious omicron variant. 

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), as of January 7th, 1.5 million Georgians currently have COVID-19, 14,000 reside within ICUs, and 26,000 have become confirmed deaths within the legal system. 

Amidst the uncertainty of today’s world combined with the need to stay on top of information, Cobb County releases the number of students, staff and faculty who have contracted COVID-19 to the public every Friday. Currently, the district most recently updated the page on December 17, the Friday before the county-wide holiday break, in which it listed 6500 cumulative cases as active.

Due to the overwhelming amount of cases within Cobb and the nation’s (146,000 confirmed cases and 1,488 confirmed deaths according to the World In Data organization and the New York Times), students and faculty argue that a mandatory in-person shutdown, COVID vaccination status and mask mandate remain the few key elements to keep people safe.

“Not only are they [mandates] safer for the people but just healthier overall. I personally believe that vaccines should be mandated, but I know it is a choice for everybody, but they do increase your chances of surviving COVID, which makes them such a safer safeguard. Many of the current protocols aren’t actually fighting against COVID, and that isn’t keeping the students’ or the teachers’ health in mind. If not everyone wants to be vaccinated and wear a mask, schools should shut down,” magnet junior Alina Autry said. 

However, certain personnel deeply disagree with that sentiment, arguing that the benefits from keeping school open outweigh the negatives by tenfold. The educational and mental defecates faced during the first shutdown undeniably defined a generation. Teachers continue to struggle with the education gap brought from the virtual sessions, and students advocate for their ability to experience normal school events, like graduation and prom. 

“My kids need to be back in school. I’m praying that people will wake up and realize our kids need school without masks for their mental, physical, and emotional health,” Cobb County parent Amy Buchanan said. 

Regardless, students in Cobb and Gwinnett county continue to hold in-person teaching despite all other metro Atlanta school districts (Atlanta Public Schools, Clayton, DeKalb, Forsyth, Fulton and Rockdale) closing for virtual sessions. However, the rising omicron cases fuel claims that Cobb superintendent Chris Ragdale purposefully ignored demands from Cobb and Douglas Public Health to shut down and reopen virtually. 

“[The claims are] wildly inaccurate and irresponsible rumors being spread as part of a ‘social media and traditional media pressure campaign’ to pressure the District to only offer remote classrooms; we continue to make decisions based on local and state public health guidance and remain committed to offering face-to-face and remote classrooms,” Cobb county spokesman said

Nevertheless, the Cobb County policy contrasts regulations advised by the CDC, arguing that all persons, unvaccinated or otherwise, wear a mask whenever they enter a public facility. Gwinnett requires masks and vaccines for all students and staff. A statement to the reasoning for the lack of alignment from Cobb public schools remains unknown. 

“Children — students in classrooms across Cobb and across the country — are not immune to COVID-19. I recognize that there are those who continue to laugh in the face of science, who believe that COVID-19 is nothing more than a glorified cold. [But] I continue to ask that the Cobb County School District acknowledge the reality of what is happening and come up with an appropriate and data-driven plan,” Cobb county parent Maureen Downey said.