Gov. Brian Kemp’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia has been widely criticized. But the governor also has his supporters, including two lawmakers who represent Murray County in the state legislature.
State Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) and Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth) say they support Kemp’s decision to push for a “normal” return to public schools in the fall. They also agree with his call for the voluntary use of face masks to help limit the transmission of the coronavirus.
Ridley, the father of three children between the ages of 10-15, is glad they are expected to return to the classroom for a normal fall start.
“These kids need to be back in the classroom,” said Ridley. “They need to see their teachers. They want to see their friends. They need to get some normalcy back in their lives.”
Ridley pointed out that many students would have the choice of coming back to class or learning online.
Jasperse believes the decision should be made by local school boards.
“It’s a local decision and it should be a local decision,” said Jasperse. “People in the communities know better than Atlanta what their local conditions are,” Jasperse said.
“Certain groups of kids in particular need to be in school,” he said. “The younger students and our special needs students need extra attention. The older kids may have some options. ”
What about teachers and other staff members?
“I think the school boards are trying to address the issues and provide protection, things like face masks and tape to mark off areas where kids aren’t allowed,” said Jasperse.
He added, “Look, the superintendent and the people on the school board know these teachers. They are friends. They work together. They go to church together. I don’t think our school boards are going to do anything to endanger the teachers or other staff.”
Ridley and Jasperse also both back Kemp’s call for voluntary use of masks in public places, as opposed to a statewide mandate. Both are also happy that Kemp is not returning businesses to the “lockdown” that was in place in the spring.
“I am all for not requiring masks,” said Ridley. “I support what the governor is doing. We have a lot of businesses out there that are just trying to hold on. It isn’t easy.”
“I get calls from my buddies in Texas,” Ridley said. “They have places out there that have been around for 90 years that are going out of business. I completely support the idea of letting people make decisions for themselves.
Classroom instruction in Murray County schools is scheduled to begin on Sept. 8 with “traditional” classroom sizes. A “virtual classroom” option is being offered. Extra safety precautions will be in place, according to school officials.