Parents struggle as US schools reopen amid coronavirus surge

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Parents struggle as US schools reopen amid coronavirus surge

Monday, August 03, 2020

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DALLAS, Georgia (AP) — Putting your child on the bus for the first day of school is always a leap of faith for a parent. Now, on top of the normal worries about teachers and lessons and adjusting to new routines, there's COVID-19.

Rachel Adamus was feeling those emotions at sunrise Monday as she got 7-year-old Paul ready for his first day of second grade and 5-year-old Neva ready for the start of kindergarten.

With a new school year beginning this week in some states, Adamus is struggling to balance her fears with her belief that her children need to go to school for the sake of their education. The death toll in the U.S. from the coronavirus has reached about 155,000, and cases are rising in numerous states.

As the bus pulled away from the curb in Adamus' Dallas, Georgia, neighbourhood, the tears finally began to fall.

"I tried not to cry. I'm usually not like this on the first day of school,” said Adamus, who said her aunt died from COVID-19 in Alabama and her husband's great uncle succumbed to the virus in a New Jersey nursing home. “This is the hardest it's been.”

The Adamus children are among tens of thousands of students in Georgia and across the nation who were set to resume in-person school Monday for the first time since March.

Both youngsters were wearing masks, although that is not mandatory for the 30,000 students in Paulding County, about 25 miles northwest of Atlanta.

Nine districts were starting face-to-face classes in Georgia, all also offering parents a stay-at-home virtual option. That's in addition to three districts that started face-to-face classes last week. Five more Georgia districts were starting all-online classes on Monday.

Parents in Louisiana and Tennessee will also be among those navigating the new academic year as schools open up in parts of those states this week. Schools in Hawaii were supposed to reopen Tuesday, but the teachers union led a move to delay that until August 17.

Many schools are planning a hybrid approach, with students alternating between in-person classes and online instruction. Some schools will have full in-person instruction for lower grade levels only.

Many school districts around the country had offered parents a choice of at least some in-person classes or remote instruction. But an uptick in COVID-19 cases in many states has prompted districts to scrap in-person classes at least for the start of the school year, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington.

Adamus lives near North Paulding High School, where the principal sent a letter over the weekend announcing a football player tested positive for the coronavirus after attending practice. The Georgia High School Association, in a memo sent last week, said it has received reports of 655 positive tests since workouts for football and other sports started on June 8. Mandatory practices began statewide last week.

In Mississippi, where the virus is spreading fast, 44 districts begin classes in person this week, starting Monday with the rural 1,700-student Newton County system east of Jackson. The 2,700-student Corinth district was the first traditional district to begin class in Mississippi last week. By week's end, one Corinth High student had tested positive and a dozen or more classmates were in quarantine.

In Indiana, where schools reopened last week, a student at Greenfield-Central Junior High School tested positive on the first day back to class.

School Superintendent Harold Olin said the student was tested days earlier and attended class before receiving the results. The student was isolated in the school clinic, while school nurses worked to identify others who may have had close contact.

“This really does not change our plans,” Olin said. “We knew that we would have a positive case at some point in the fall. We simply did not think it would happen on day one.”

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