ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Metro Atlanta school districts are putting plans in place to deal with a potential outbreak of the coronavirus.
There is currently no vaccine to protect against the virus and no medication to treat it.
The CDC and state health officials urge schools to have a plan in place. A CDC spokesperson said they're working to develop guidance for schools that will likely be similar to pandemic influenza planning. The CDC said options for schools include dividing students into small groups to reduce face to face contact or in the case of a severe pandemic, closing schools and having children learn online at home.
That is something some metro Atlanta districts said they are prepared to do.
Henry County Schools spokesperson J.D. Hardin said, "Our school community fortunately has the capability for a one to one technology program that would enable our students to take their devices home if we were in a scenario that involved us staying away from a school for an extended period of time.”
He said district leaders are staying in close contact with health and emergency management officials to discuss how the district may respond if the coronavirus spreads here.
"We’re taking a proactive approach as a school system to make sure that we’re not rushing around in the event something like this happens," said Hardin.
"We’ve had some outreach from parents and that’s why we have a website very similar to back when we had the Ebola scare and we worked to keep them informed on that," he said. "We feel that information is vital to help tamper down any anxiety that may exist out there. Fortunately we don’t have anything that’s impacted our community yet but we never want to take that for granted that people need that sense of security from our school system.”
Many school districts are posting updates on their websites to keep parents informed.
Gwinnett County Schools said they've shared information about the virus with schools and have a team reviewing their response plan and updating it accordingly.
The following are statements CBS46 received from school districts.
Atlanta Public Schools:
"Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is closely monitoring all developments related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), and we take this and any other health-related concern very seriously. District officials will remain in close contact with local, state, and federal agencies – such as the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), the Fulton County Board of Health (BOH), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the latest information on this disease. In this case, many of the decisions and plans around quarantines or school closures will be led by the federal government with assistance from state emergency management officials. We have received guidance from those agencies and are incorporating key components into the District’s emergency management practices. We will provide updated information to students, families and District employees as we receive directives from local, state, and federal health officials. To stay abreast of emerging health news in APS, click here to visit our health alerts page."
Cobb County Schools:
"While public health officials have not been able to provide any specific direction thus far, we are taking every precaution we can, which includes reminding our community to make healthy choices. As our teachers teach and students learn, we will continue to work closely with public health officials from state and federal agencies for specific guidance. We do know there are no active cases in the state of Georgia, but we have taken and will continue to take every recommended step to keep our students safe."
DeKalb County Schools:
Regarding the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is following guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), which states that “students, faculty or staff whose family members have traveled from China in the last 14 days do not need to be excluded from school.” Those who have traveled from China in the past 14 days and do have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek medical care, according to DPH.
Currently, there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection in Georgia.
DCSD is monitoring the status of the coronavirus with our partners at the DeKalb Board of Health, DeKalb Emergency Management Agency, and partners in neighboring school districts. The district will provide updates if the situation evolves. The safety and well-being of our students and staff remains a top priority.
Fulton County Schools:
Fulton County Schools is aware of the statements made by the CDC Tuesday regarding the potential threat of Coronavirus in the United States. As we continue to receive the latest information on the status of the disease provided by the Georgia Department of Public Health, we will continue to follow the lead of local, state, and federal agencies. The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority.
FCS is vigorously monitoring incidents of illness, particularly those with flu-like symptoms. There are currently no reported Coronavirus cases in the state of Georgia. FCS does have a plan in place for any potential cases of the Coronavirus:
- We are continuing to reinforce the importance of healthy hygiene with our students and employees
- Should a confirmed case occur, we will immediately inform our school community
- FCS has a plan to address a potential pandemic, including a Continuity of Learning component
- In the event of a school closing, we can convert instruction to a digital format to ensure continuation of instruction
Our guidance to parents remains the same. If your child is sick with a fever, we ask that parents keep them at home until the fever subsides. All non-sick students are expected to report to school in accordance with the compulsory attendance laws of the state.
Cherokee County Schools:
On behalf of the Superintendent, please be advised that we are aware of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance to schools to prepare contingency plans for the coronavirus-borne disease COVID-19.
Our School District works closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health and local public safety officials whenever there is a public health or safety concern affecting any of our schools. Our custodial provider is equally dedicated to keeping our schools clean and our children safe with numerous industry best practices in place.
What can you do as a parent? You can reinforce with your children the importance of every-day good health habits to avoid illnesses including: frequently washing your hands; using a tissue when you sneeze or cough and then throwing it away; keeping your fingers out of your eyes, nose and mouth; not sharing water bottles or similar containers; and staying home when sick. When children have a fever, they need to stay home from school and be fever free, without the aid of fever-reducing medication, for at least 24 hours before returning to school.
In the event we were to need to close schools, for any reason, our Canvas online learning management system, which our students and teachers have tested for the past year, allows for teaching and learning to continue in these situations. As we have previously announced, we will be using Canvas on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 for a Digital Learning Day; our schools will be closed that day for safety concerns, as many will be used for Presidential Primary election polling sites. Canvas is a type of “teleschool” option that CDC officials suggested school systems have in place as a contingency plan.
Forsyth County Schools:
Forsyth County Schools (FCS) does not have a confirmed case of coronavirus in our schools. If this was to occur, we will notify staff and parents/guardians within the school.
We are aware of the concerns of our community, as well as the recent statements from the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). FCS has had online learning days over the past six years for inclement weather and could use this option if needed for health reasons.
FCS will continue to follow CDC recommendations to prevent any infection of a respiratory virus, which includes to:
· Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
· Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Stay home when sick.
· Cough or sneeze into an elbow or use a tissue and place immediately in the trash.
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
If a student or staff member shows respiratory symptoms, our school nurses will follow standard precautions and work with our district departments and the Health Department to further research individual/family travel histories.
FCS encourages families to follow the CDC’s information for travel, available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html. We request that parents/guardians notify their school principal if a child or member of their family has been to China or South Korea (both are on the CDC’s Warning Level 3 traveler’s list) and recently returned to our community. Out of an abundance of caution, we request that these children wait for the 14-day incubation period (beginning the day of return to the U.S.) to expire before enrolling in school or returning to school. We will not count these absences, and children will be provided online learning during this period and technology/access if needed.