Parents, advocacy group report 14.2% of DeKalb County Schools had COVID-19 exposure in first week of school

DeKalb County School District Administration and Instructional Complex on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse

This story has been updated.

DeKalb County, GA — At least 20 schools this week notified parents of COVID-19 exposure in DeKalb County School District, according to the Coalition for a Safe DCSD Return and parents who forwarded Tucker Observer notices from their schools.

That’s 14.2% of all schools in DeKalb County. Mask-wearing is mandatory for all students and staff in DeKalb County Schools.

The Coalition for a Safe DCSD Return, which advocates for full transparency from the school district on COVID-19 matters, gathered the information from teachers and parents across the district.

It’s unclear whether there was exposure in other districts, although there were anecdotal reports of a COVID-19 case at Decatur High School

There was no up-to-date information regarding cases in City Schools of Decatur. The district’s COVID report simply said “coming soon” as of Aug. 6. The Atlanta Public Schools weekly case report was not up-to-date. The last report was dated June 25, 2021.

Image obtained via Atlanta Public Schools
Image obtained via City Schools of Decatur

DeKalb County Schools’ data shows a substantially larger number of schools – 83 schools, or 60 percent of the district’s schools –with COVID-19 reports, but their list dates back to July 1, making it unclear how many of those were detected during the first week of school, which began on Aug. 2. According to the district, 118 students have tested positive for COVID, or 0.13 percent of all students, and 95 staffers have tested positive, or 0.61 percent of all staff.

Some schools, like DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts in Avondale Estates, quarantined an entire grade due to exposure, according to a parent.

DESA alerted fourth grade parents on Aug. 5 that students had been “identified as being in close contact to someone at school diagnosed with COVID-19.” Close contact, as defined by Dekalb County School District, is being within six feet of a person with COVID-19 for 15 minutes.

DESA has two fourth grade classes, both of which eat lunch together in the school cafeteria. The school runs kindergarten to eighth grade, and its practice is to keep grades as separate as possible while inside the building. Parents said they are grateful for a quick response from the school.

A letter from DESA Principal Bianca Hamilton to fourth grade parents says:

Greetings DESA Families,

We are doing everything we can to keep your child safe at DESA, however, your student was identified as being in close contact to someone at school diagnosed with COVID-19. Close contact includes being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for 15 minutes. This exposure notification is only for the child identified, not siblings.

This message serves as acknowledgement of the COVID-19 report submitted by DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts. The information has been sent to the Board of Health. The students should not return to school. Please see the attached guidance from the DeKalb Board of Health. 

We are going to plan virtual learning for math, science, social studies, and English Language Arts beginning on Monday. Please complete the survey below to help us plan. 

Note: This message does not apply to virtual learning students.

Bianca Hamilton, Principal

The rest of DESA’s community received a similar letter, stating contact tracing was complete. The letter says, “Anyone who was in close contact with the positive case has been notified via phone and email. Siblings are not considered part of the reporting process because they were not in close contact with the positive case.”

One parent at DESA said she wishes students could eat lunch in the classroom with dividers or outside to cut down on potential exposure to COVID-19.

DeKalb County School District representative said, “The health and safety of the DeKalb County School District school community is our number one priority. The District continues to keep our schools safe and reduce the spread of transmission by following CDC mitigation guidance. Families and impacted individuals were notified of a positive COVID-19 case in the school building, as required.​ The District is diligently working with families to ensure they are provided with accurate information and have the appropriate instructional materials to continue coursework virtually, if needed. Positive COVID case numbers will be posted on the District’s website weekly.”

Other schools in DCSD who reported cases at the time of publication:

Ashford Park Elementary

Chamblee High School

Chamblee Middle School

Clarkston High School

Doraville United Charter School

Druid Hills High School

Dunwoody Elementary School

Evansdale Elementary

Lithonia High School

Livsey Elementary

McNair High School

Midvale Elementary

Montgomery Elementary School

Oak Grove Elementary School

Rainbow Elementary School

Sagamore Hills High School

Stephenson High School

Stone Mountain High School

The Museum School

Henderson Middle School

Erin Pearson, a parent of a Chamblee Middle School student and Lakeside High School student, said she feels angry at the lack of a plan for virtual learning. Her son, who is vaccinated, was sent home this week after a possible exposure to COVID-19. He felt surprised and angry about getting vaccinated yet still facing a COVID-19 scare.

After a year of virtual learning, Pearson said she feels the school system has learned nothing.

“Schools are not taking into account the new information. Schools need to adapt to new delta variant and take into account the possibility that vaccinated people can get and spread COVID,” Pearson said.

Tucker parent Alexis Weaver said after a confusing week at school, “We are asking educators to be contact tracers, and that’s not just fair.”

A Henderson Middle School parent said that the school district was not following guidance provided by the board of health when it comes to quarantining students.

“DeKalb is not following the latest guidelines and told me that my vaccinated children did not have to quarantine and could return to school which is inconsistent with the guidance from the board of health,” the parent said.

The Tucker Observer is a new community news website owned by Decaturish.comWe provide locally sourced news about Tucker, Clarkston and Stone Mountain.

For more Tucker news, follow us on Facebook by clicking here. Follow us on Twitter by clicking here

Want the latest news from the Tucker Observer delivered to your inbox every morning? Click here to sign up for our free daily newsletter. 

To become a paying supporter of Tucker Observer, click here