CLARKSTON, Ga. — As schools struggle to figure out protocols that will allow them to open - a lot of the conversation is around personal protective gear - masks that will protect both the students and the teachers.
But a group of educators and parents in Clarkston decided they didn't want to wait until districts made the decision about what would keep them safe. They are raising the money to do it on their own.
This came from the anxiety a lot of the parents and teachers were feeling about what school will look like in a few weeks. But instead of worrying, the group in Clarkston decided they would do something about it.
"We are all stressed out about it, and I think that I'm trying to do everything I can to make sure that my child is safe and the people she's in school with are safe," said Susan Cooper. "And the thought that there are families who don't have that ability to keep their family safe is heartbreaking. So we want to do something to help."
Cooper is working with a group of women to make sure the students in the Clarkston Cluster in Dekalb County Schools have what the masks need to be safe this school year.
"It's about 6,100 students and we want to outfit them with one to wear, one to have as backup, one to have in the laundry," said Cooper.
That's a total of 18,300 masks.
It's an ambitious goal, but Cooper says they've been overwhelmed by the support from the community to make it happen.
The Clarkston cluster are all Title One schools and 100 percent of the kids who go there participate in the Free Lunch program.
Many parents work in North Georgia Poultry plants, where there have been outbreaks of COVID-19.
Cooper says the masks are necessary but can be expensive.
"We are seeing these great masks for children that are like 13 and 15 dollars and thinking how are people now who don't really have any income, their stress levels must just be crazy right now thinking about that," she said.
Leading Emory University researcher Dr. Carlos Del Rio agrees, but says it stretches outside the school walls as well.
"If we want to open schools, and our window is closing, we have to slow community transmission, we have to tamp out the virus in the community. A lot of these measures will work, but only if community transmission is low. If community transmission is high, there's nothing we can do," del Rio said. "So we have to slow community transmission. We have to start wearing masks now, we have to social distance, now."
She hopes this mask drive can alleviate at least some of the anxiety parents are feeling before their kids go back to school.
"You're not going to have a successful year if everybody is just stressed out about being sick and if their safety is in jeopardy," she said.
Dekalb County has not made a decision about school next year - even though the state date is supposed to be just weeks away -- they'll have a meeting Monday to determine what they'll do.
The group created a private Facebook group for people to join if they want to learn more about the project and where to donate masks.
If you want to purchase a mask to donate, the group is supporting a local business: Amani Womens Center.
This is a local community group that provides assistance to refugees in a number of different ways. They are currently sewing masks and have set up an area on their order form where people can elect to order masks for Mad Dash for Masks.
A great way to support the Clarkston Community in two ways at the same time! This is an excellent location for anyone interested in donating purchased masks for their cause.
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