BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – In the July Board of Education (BOE) meeting, Union school officials announced in-person and virtual-only options for the 2020-2021 school year.
Parents can choose from a four day in-person week with virtual Fridays or a strictly online learning program. If parents decide to move their students into online learning, the student must remain in that program of the nine weeks.
Students moving from online to in-person must provide notice before the nine weeks ends, so the school can prepare for the increase in population.
“There are a lot of moving parts. When a parent decides to go to online learning, that’s fine, but when they want to come back because of all the social distancing, assigned seating, bus routing,” explained Assistant Superintendent David Murphy.
Additionally, the start date to the 2020-2021 school year was pushed back from August 12 to August 17. The measure accommodates for virtual pre-planning and a controlled meet your teacher day environment.
A huge part of this plan involved parent choice. 94 percent of parents and guardians responded to Union County Schools’ (UCS) survey and 80 percent were comfortable with in-person learning while 20 percent were not. The employee survey received 253 responses out of 500 and 83 percent of those surveyed were ready to return to school while 17 percent were not. This plan allows for flexibility for the staff and students.
The virtual Fridays allow for janitorial staff to deep clean school buildings and for transportation to sanitize the busses. It also provides an opportunity for teachers to dedicate time to those in online learning only.
As for lunch, each week, certain classes will eat in the lunchroom. The remaining classes will eat inside the classroom, or outside if the weather allows. This prevents the lunchroom from becoming crowded and gives room to socially distance.
Superintendent Hill expressed the fact that the safety of the staff and students is the main priority of the BOE. However, he admits cases will occur, and complete prevention is impossible. Hill added, “schools weren’t made to socially distance.”
The UCS Covid-19 task force will assist in guiding school safety decisions along with CDC and the Georgia Department Of Health protocols.
Students will have assigned seating, so if a case arises, the school can assist the health department epidemiologist in accurately contact tracing. Children who test positive must stay home for 10 days or until they test negative. Students exposed to Covid-19 will stay home for 14 days.
Masks won’t be required, but the Covid-19 prevention measure is highly encouraged and recommended for all students. Free and reduced meal students will have a mask provided to them. However, there will be certain situations where the students will be required to wear a mask, such as if they visit the school clinic.
Once students walk into their first class, teachers will take their temperature. If the student has a fever of over 100 degrees, they will be sent to the nurse for further evaluation.
Parents can keep their child home if they have Covid-19 symptoms without penalty. These children can also participate in online learning for those days without being enrolled in the online-only option. Students who participate in online learning won’t be marked absent for those days at home. UCS wants to keep as many people safe as possible from the virus through the best means available.
UCS will be following the Georgia Department of Education Path to Recovery. Superintendent Hill made sure to state that this document will be constantly changing and evolving. UCS will have this as a Google Doc so if it changes they will update it immediately.
Hill finished with, ”What we don’t have to change is our commitment to our kids.”
Further details will be released about the remaining plan on the UCS website on July 22. Parents and guardians should expect another survey gauging commitment to be sent out soon.