The community has been asking for an update on COVID-19 in Cobb Schools and how District leadership makes COVID-19 decisions. During the September Board of Education meeting, the community had an opportunity to see some of the data that has helped frame District decisions.
On Thursday evening, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale presented data that shows a substantial drop in COVID-19 cases in Cobb Schools and how Cobb COVID-19 numbers relate to other school districts in the area. His presentation can be viewed in its entirety here. “We need to understand what is happening, why it is happening, and what will happen next. We need to understand our data and what it means. I felt it was time to get an accurate depiction of our data. When we are not presented with a forward-looking process, we will use our own data-driven process,” the Superintendent explained.
Superintendent Ragsdale indicated he chose to share and explain this data during the Board meeting because of a number of recent, misleading reports in the media. Those reports appear to have caused Cobb families concern, specifically a false report that exaggerated actual case spread when cases were actually falling sharply.
When looking at the data per student at the district level so far in the 2021-2022 school year, cases in Cobb Schools have decreased along with cases in other neighboring school districts. The data showed that during the most recent peak in August of 2021, Cobb had one of the lower numbers of cases per student.
Last school year, Cobb Schools implemented a mask mandate to curb the spread of COVID. With the extra step to mask students and staff, the District expected the number of COVID cases in Cobb to be lower than districts that chose to remain unmasked. In reality, the data shows the number of cases in Cobb Schools per student was essentially the same as those in other districts.
Cobb’s experience fits with a study of 90,000 Georgia students during last winter’s surge , which showed student masking “could not be said to be effective,” according to an article in New York Magazine Intelligencer about a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of COVID transmission in American schools.
“Other findings of equal importance in the study, however, were absent from the summary and not widely reported… most notably, requiring student masking [was] found to not have a statistically significant benefit. In other words, these measures could not be said to be effective,” as referenced in the same New York Magazine article.
Superintendent Ragsdale emphasized the importance of data-driven decision-making and that Cobb Schools will continue with a data-driven and forward-looking process that mitigates disruptions and the learning loss it causes.
“I appreciate that the Superintendent compiled some of the COVID-19 data which separates fact from narrative. I’m glad to see the case numbers going down. Our goal since the beginning of this pandemic has been to keep our students and staff safe, and the data says we are doing that as well as we can,” said Board Chair Randy Scamihorn.
In addition to the COVID-19 update, the Board Chair and Superintendent both once again addressed the recent disturbing social media trend involving hate speech, anti-Semitic references, and the abuse of school property.
Board Chair Scamihorn explained his plan to continue working with the local community to draft a resolution that reflects the views of the school Board.
Superintendent Ragsdale made it very clear that all hate speech, including anti-Semitic speech, will not be tolerated:
“I want to touch briefly on the incident regarding the anti-Semitic graffiti. Let me start off by saying I want to be very clear. The District does not and will not tolerate hate in any form. Following an investigation, the administration has brought disciplinary charges against those responsible. The matter is proceeding to the disciplinary tribunal process required by Georgia law. I cannot report on particulars of incidences at this time as the administration’s discipline recommendation is sufficiently significant that the Board members could likely hear it on appeal. I understand that this could have begun as some sort of social media dare. I appreciate that statistically, in a district of 110,000 students in 114 schools, incidents like this may occur. They are extremely rare in CCSD. Regardless, the district refuses to dismiss the incident as some sort of prank. The 18,000 staff members of this district work exceptionally hard to ensure that this is an environment where all students are welcome and appreciated. This is supported by the board, which mandates reporting incidences of this nature. Some may consider our response unduly punitive. I disagree. It reflects the importance of this District’s schools being environments in which all students have the opportunities for and from an international and competitive education, and our expectation is that behaviors like this will not occur. I respectively request the Board members withhold comment on specific details of the incident until after the Board hears any potential appeals. Otherwise, it may provide an opportunity for those charged to challenge the discipline.”