COVID Update – Ms. Lofstrand


Decatur Highschool Students have been back in person for almost an entire trimester, and with over 1,700 kids in the building, many are wondering what the next steps are for this school year. Ms. Lofstrand, Decatur High School’s (DHS) principal, gave us a look into what the plan is as we return closer to where we were pre-Covid.


All Decatur students went into last year completely virtual, and students were only allowed to come back in-person around March of 2020. Regarding CSD’s (City Schools of Decatur) experience over last year, Ms. Lofstrand said, “I think that last year our virtual learning experience was mixed. I hear from some families that their students really thrived in the virtual environment we had created, and for some students it was really hard. In fact I had heard from a couple families with multiple children where some of their kids thrived and some didn’t.”


Additionally, she talked about the importance of Wellness Wednesday, and checking in on students’ mental health, “I think that the model that we used for our concurrent learning was far superior to other school districts that didn’t use Google Classroom in the same way, that didn’t have as much face time. I really liked Wellness Wednesday, I liked the opportunity to give students time to process their work, and check in with teachers in the afternoon…” 


“…but I think that Covid has been an extremely stressful experience for everybody for different reasons.”


The original plan for our return to school was a recommendation on masks but no requirement for vaccinated students and staff. As Covid cases ticked back up in July, a mask mandate was put in place. Ms. Lofstrand had this to say about the decision, “The People, Dr. Furman and the board decided that for everyone’s safety, we needed masks just like the other schools.” 


Whether or not there will be any change on our mask mandate is up in the air. Ms. Lofstrand mentioned that “Moving forward, I think it just depends on what happens in our community, and we’re not talking about the state or the nation, we’re really looking at Decatur, our zipcode, and what the numbers are like. It depends on if the numbers get smaller or if they ramp up with some of our mitigation practices, and if it gets better then we would be open to loosening up.”


Recent discussions for a vaccine mandate for the CSD system have been ramping up. As of September 14th, during the CSD board meeting, a vaccine mandate as been approved for all CSD staff. However, no approval for a mandate for CSD students, regarding a possible future decision on a mandate for students Ms. Lofstrand said, “I mean, yeah, I do think that it can be approved, but, if there is one thing that I have learned over the past year, it is that there are two sides to this story. It’s not about who’s louder, It’s not about who has the best argument, it’s really about weighing the benefits, and the disadvantages of making a decision like that…”

Decatur Board of Edutcation meets on September 14th to discuss Covid safety in CSD schools
Decatur Board of Edutcation meets on September 14th to discuss Covid safety in CSD schools (Decaturish)

“…I think that there is, in this community, just from the contact tracing that we’ve had to do with the few positive cases we’ve had, that we have a very high vaccination rate in Decatur. But the other side of this argument is that until this vaccine gets approved by the FDA for twelve and under, should we really be approving something like this?” 


The Covid vaccine has not been FDA approved for more than half of the students in Decatur, making it difficult to push a mandate like this so early, but, as principal Lofstrand mentioned, Decatur has a very high vaccination rate regardless of mandates. 


Putting a vaccine mandate in place would be a huge leap forward in terms of returning to pre-covid life. Ms. Loftsrand shares her support for this idea, saying, “I think that that is the next step, and that is definitely something to look at during that next board meeting on the 14th. I think that is the next step because that’s what a lot of organizations and companies are doing around the country, so.. in order to come to school, you have to have all sorts of different vaccines and so it would not surprise me if at some point it becomes one of the mandatory vaccines, but, we don’t have to have a flu vaccine to come to school so I don’t know. But I do think that is the next step.”


The most important part of getting back to a more normal routine for school is the students and their willingness to abide by the Covid protocols. The more students that refuse to follow the rules, the slower our return to normalcy. Ms. Lofstrand backs this idea, hoping to enforce protocols to mitigate the spread of covid in our schools. 


“we’re doing the best we can. You know, we’re still telling kids, reminding them how to wear masks. We’ve had to follow up on discipline for students who just don’t want to wear masks. We’re not running one way hallways like when you guys came back last year, but the stairwells, we’re trying really hard to spread kids out by having them go different directions. Honestly, I don’t see that going away because those stairwells were just crazy packed before Covid, and now we have more kids in school. That’s something where we’ll just have to wait.. and see if that’s something we want to change.”


Students can rest assured that Decatur is doing their best to keep them safe. The principles of each CSD school work closely together to make sure there is consistency between every school regarding Covid protocols. Ms. Lofstrand shared her struggle with accommodating each and every student.


“We’re having to balance having a full year of learning for our students in person. That does lend some challenges, maybe we can do 3 feet, but maybe not 6 feet in classrooms, and I think that that part is hard, and that is why having the mask mandate is so important because that is the number one mitigation strategy that we’re using. If you look at the Covid cases in Decatur compared to other schools in Metro Atlanta, you can tell masks work.”


As much as protocols do for us. Understanding that students and staff can struggle with mental health is monumental to creating a healthy environment at DHS. 


“Well, I’m cognizant that we’re trying to do school as usual, while we still have a lot of pandemic anxiety that we’re living with. So really using advisement, and the student center we have here as supports because we want to make sure that our students are having the time to reflect on what we’ve just been through and what we have yet to go through.”