Clarke County public school students will be learning virtually when they start school on Sept. 8.
“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that we will begin the school year in a 100% online environment,” Interim Superintendent Xernona Thomas said in a news release. “This difficult decision was based on our recognition of the effects of COVID-19 and the commitment to the safety and wellness of our students and staff.”
The announcement comes less than a week after the school board voted to push back the first day of school from Aug. 3 to Sept. 8 to give teachers more time to prepare for distance learning. At the same meeting, administrators also further explained safety measures and raised the possibility that grades 8–12 might go online to give younger students more room to socially distance.
But now, as COVID-19 cases continue to spike—with a total of XXXX cases as of July 24, up from 1,045 a week prior—all students will start the year online. Initially, CCSD had planned to give parents the option of online or in-person learning, or a hybrid model for older children.
The decision was based on “ever-changing” guidance from the CDC and Georgia departments of education and public health, according to CCSD officials. “What we learned is that, if we opened our schools, there would be a lot of interruptions in learning,” Chief Academic Officer Brannon Gaskins said in an interview with Mayor Kelly Girtz at YouTube.com/accgov. “If a student came to school sick, if a teacher came to school sick, that would put a halt on instructions.” Gaskins also pointed to the lag time in getting test results back.
Both teachers and parents had to improvise when CCSD closed schools in March. “As a parent, I was really just trying to make it through the week,” school board president LaKeisha Gantt, who has four children, told Girtz. “It took me about three weeks to forget what the days of the week were called,” said Girtz, the father of a rising second-grader. But this time, teachers will have six weeks to prepare virtual lessons.
There is no timetable for reopening schools—the situation will be evaluated weekly, Thomas said. “We recognize the best place for students to learn is in class, and the district is working to resume in-person instruction as soon as possible,” she said.
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