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Here are school districts’ plans for back to school in the fall


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Summer break is underway for most students in the metro area, but with the spring semester majorly disrupted because of the coronavirus pandemic parents are wondering what the fall semester will look like.

Some schools are still trying to develop their back-to-school plans – the big factor being what the pandemic will look like post-summer break.

Atlanta Public Schools

In a virtual town hall, Atlanta Public Schools’ new superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring described what the 2020-21 school year could look like.

Right now there are five different scenarios:

Two of them are either going 100% virtual or 100% traditional face to face, which would require no or low risk of COVID-19 in the greater community.

Then there are three different hybrid models. Hybrid 1 uses A/B days and a 10-day rotation. So, a student would go to school Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then learn online Tuesday and Thursday, and then reverse that the next week.

Hybrid 2 is a tiered approach that gives face-to-face instruction to younger children and English-speakers of other languages, and also to students in transition years, like entering middle school and high school. That option maintains virtual learning for everyone else.

The third hybrid option is a phased-in approach that starts as virtual for all students and ends as face-to-face for all students.

Dr. Herring said their focus is on education, but in this time of COVID-19, health comes first.

“To make a decision that is guided by health experts and governed by the best instructional practices were able to do is also critically important,” Herring said.

Cobb County Schools

Cobb Schools will open for face-to-face instruction with parents being able to choose a traditional classroom or a remote learning classroom. The district is also delaying the first day of school to Aug. 17 to allow for more time to prepare for the upcoming year.

“This format represents the best solution which balances our two most important priorities: the health and safety of our students and staff and student learning,” the district said.

In preparation for the  “face-to-face plus choice” model, the district is asking families to choose the classroom environment which is best for them and their family.

The district said both face-to-face and remote learning options will be available for all students, in all grades K-12. If families choose remote learning, they will be asked to certify that they have access to a device, the internet, and are committed to the remote learning environment for the semester. If they choose face-to-face learning, they will also be asked if they intend for their student(s) to ride the bus.

The district said it will also continue to work tirelessly to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our staff and our students, including through the following:

  • Social Distancing will be enforced whenever possible.
  • Hand Sanitizer will be provided in multiple locations throughout schools.
  • Masks are encouraged on buses and in school buildings.
  • Daily and rigorous cleaning protocols will be followed.
  • Nutritious meals will continue to be served daily.

Clayton County Schools

The Clayton County Board of Education has approved to start the 2020-2021 School Year utilizing the Virtual Instructional Model.

The Board also approved the adjustment of the 2020-2021 academic calendar which pushes the start of the school year to August 10 for students. This will allow teachers and staff an additional five days to prepare.

The employee workday calendar will remain the same.

Get more details on the district’s website.

Decatur City Schools

After a great deal of input from stakeholder groups, Decatur City Schools said it is looking into three scenarios for the fall.

“Our goal is to bring back as many students and staff as safely as possible for in-person learning on August 4th, but we do not yet have enough information to make a final decision on which scenario is best. We need your input,” the district said.

One scenario is a full return to school for all students with additional precautions. The second scenario is returning to school in a full virtual learning environment. The third scenario is a modified schedule with alternating in-person A/B days for students.

For a full breakdown of the plan, click here.

DeKalb County Schools

On Monday, July 13, officials with the district said it’s too dangerous to return to campus, at least for now. The new superintendent, Cheryl Watson-Harris, told the group her top priority has been figuring out how kids can learn and stay safe.

During the meeting, she said  they’ll start remote learning on Aug. 17 and then they’ll re-evaluate those plans every month to see if the COVID-19 transmission and death numbers are going down enough to return.

Douglas County Schools

The Douglas County School System said it will offer three learning options for the upcoming school year, which is set to begin on Aug. 10.

The three options are:

  • Traditional Learning in the classroom;
  • School-Based Digital Learning (SBDL); and
  • FLEX Academy

Parents interested in School-Based Digital Learning or the FLEX Academy must apply by end-of-day on July 10.

Parents who wish for their students to participate in Traditional Learning do not need to take further action.

Details and the link to apply for SBDL or FLEX can be found on the School Reopening page.

Fayette County Schools

The district has developed two different options for resuming school – Option 1 is a “brick and mortar” plan for Pre-K through 12 while Option 2 is a full-time virtual plan.

Under Option 1, there are three different instructional settings based on the level of concern regarding COVID-19 cases: green, yellow, and red. The green and yellow levels include prevention protocols such as social distancing, the recommendation of using face coverings, temperature checks, staff and visitor health checks, frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, extensive disinfecting, and contact tracing. Under the red level, students will participate in distance learning. Face-to-face instruction will be suspended, and students will not report to school.

Protocols for reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the after-school setting are being developed. Parents will soon be receiving a survey asking which educational option they prefer when school resumes Aug. 10. For a full breakdown of the plan, click here.

Fulton County Schools

Superintendent Looney shared the COVID-19 Closure Matrix, which will govern the district’s response to COVID-19 cases that occur within Fulton County Schools (FCS) when the district is back to in-person instruction.

The matrix incorporates current guidance from the CDC and Department of Public Health. The district said the model includes a plan for school, building, zone, or district closures based upon low, moderate or substantial community impact. Also, each possible scenario includes a response protocol for communication, public health engagement, contact tracing, staff or student quarantine, cleaning, and recovery.

In addition, the district voted to push back the start of school by a week to Aug. 17 in order to accommodate the Aug. 11 elections, as many Fulton County Schools are used as polling locations.

Forsyth County Schools

The school district released a draft plan for reopening schools in the fall outlining several new policies for both students and staff.

According to the draft, Forsyth County Schools would adopted the following guidelines.

School nurses will be the school’s main COVID-19 point of contact

  • Periodic health screenings of students and employees may be conducted including random temperature checks.
  • Students and employees with COVID-19 symptoms or a temperature of 100.4 and above will be immediately isolated and sent home.
    • Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout each building
    • Students and staff are also encouraged to bring hand sanitizer from home.
    • To promote COVID-19 protective measures, signs will be posted in highly visible locations and schools will broadcast daily messages.
    • Schools and departments will develop a schedule for increased cleaning and disinfection.
    • Ventilation systems will be monitored on a regular basis to ensure proper operation and the increased circulation of outdoor air as much as possible.
    • Buses will be cleaned and disinfected after every bus route.
    • Students and employees may wear masks; they will not be provided by the school or district.

    Student desks will face in the same direction 

    Students will be isolated to their classrooms

    • While ensuring the safety of children, to the extent possible, students will eat in classrooms.
    • Traditional water fountains will be closed; water fill stations will be open. Students and staff are encouraged to bring water from home.
    • Non-essential student movement throughout the school day will be limited.
    • Outdoor recess will be continued but the number of students gathered in one area will be limited. Some playground equipment may be prohibited for student use.

    Events will be held virtually

    • In lieu of field trips, assemblies, special performances, and school wide meetings or events, including open house and curriculum nights, virtual activities will be pursued.
    • Parent/guardian teacher conferences will be held virtually, if possible.
    • Guidance from the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) will be followed for school athletics.

    Gwinnett County Schools

    When Gwinnett County Public Schools’ students and staff return for the new school year, they will be required, along with visitors, to wear face coverings.

    The Gwinnett County Board of Education and Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks discussed plans for the 2020-2021 school year in a special-called meeting on July 7.

    The decision was also made to delay the start of the upcoming school year.

    Classes will now begin on Aug. 12, giving the district additional time to review and adjust its plans.They said it will also allow them to meet the students’ needs and to reflect the most updated guidance from public health officials.

    Since medical experts recommend the use of face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19, GCPS said they will require employees, students and visitors to school facilities to wear them.

    “As social distancing will be a challenge in schools and on school buses, GCPS is asking those who attend and/or work at its schools — as well as those who drive buses and work in other GCPS facilities — to wear a face covering or mask to minimize the spread of illness, and keep students and staff members safe,” the news release said.

    They also said accommodations will be made for students or employees who cannot wear masks for documented health reasons.

    “Ultimately, we made our decisions based on what we believe is in the overall best interest of the district’s students, families and staff. In the weeks to come, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Gwinnett County and, if necessary, will revise our plans as conditions warrant,” Willbanks said.

    GSPS is the largest school district in the state. They announced in recent weeks they would allow parents to decide to choose between in-person or digital instruction for their children for the first semester. The survey allowing the parent of each child to make that decision remains open through July 10, the district said.

    Henry County Schools

    Ahead of the start of the 2020-21 school year, the official window is now open for parents and guardians to make the selection for the learning option that they feel most comfortable with for their child.

    The district has shared communication with all parents regarding the selection process, which includes two options to start school on Monday, August 3. Parents and guardians can either select to send their children back to school campuses with added safety and preventative measures, or there is an option to have children start the new school year utilizing remote learning.

    The window for a family to make their declaration lasts from July 8 through July 17.

    “We know that each family’s level of comfort is different and they will use the information available from our district and the public health officials to make the decision that is best for them,” said Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis.  “Our district has worked tirelessly to make either option feasible for individual families as well as school district operations.  We want families to feel comfortable with either option and understand that they can expect a high-quality education in either setting.”

    Families and community members interested in learning more about the district’s plans to provide the learning option that best fits their comfort level can review the Back-to-School webpage, which includes the Return-to-School Playbook, timeline of events leading up to the first day of school, and answers to many of the frequently asked questions from our school community.  All Back-to-School information can be found through the district’s website by clicking the link on the left-hand side of the page.

    For a full breakdown of the plan, check the website.

    Marietta City Schools

    The district said school is anticipated to begin Aug. 4, and it does not foresee that date changing, even though the neighboring Cobb County School District has delayed its return date.

    “We are preparing for the potential reopening; however, we also understand that guidance from state and federal agencies continues to evolve based on patterns with infection rates and other critical variables,” the district said.

    In a statement from July 2, the district outlines some of the highlights to its reopening plan, which includes requiring face coverings for all students and visitors.

    You can read the district’s full plan here.

    Rockdale County Schools

    The district is still formulating a return plan for students based on responses compiled from parents, faculty and staff. However, it has released a revised calendar for the 2020-21 school year.

    “This calendar affords us more time to prepare and consider stakeholder feedback, guidance from health officials, and the myriad of challenges such as health screening, social distancing, increased cleaning protocols, and the potential for future school closures.,” the district said.

    The revised schedule includes a Sept. 8 start date.

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