Covington County School District students will return to classes Aug. 31, the school board decided Thursday night during a special meeting in Collins.
Teachers will return on Aug. 20, and the revised school calendar will push the last day of school to June 11, 2021.
A parent who chooses for a child to learn at home for the first six weeks must sign up for distance learning by Friday, Aug. 14. Parents understand that 240 minutes of school must take place every day at campus and in distance learning, or the students will be counted absent.
Superintendent Babette Duty said she is asking students and their families to participate in a soft quarantine.
“Superintendents were asked during a July 31st webinar that families should be asked in the weeks before schools start to implement strict stay-home practices and to not come into contact with people outside the home, to include extended family,” she said. “Please avoid activities such as gatherings, family reunions, parties, and outings such as shopping or vacationing and other activities that put you in contact with people you do not live with. I am asking that all school employees do the same for two weeks prior to school starting for teachers.”
In the past month, Duty said the school board completed its plan to keep students, staff, and community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans will be modified as public health guidelines are updated.
“Thank you for trusting us with the education of your children and for your patience as we deliberate over detailed plans to safely reopen our campuses this fall,” she said in a July 13 online letter to students’ parents. “Results from a recent Covington County School District survey indicate that 61 percent of parents and 65 percent of students surveyed want to start school on a normal schedule. Forty percent of parents said they were unsure if they would send their child. With your input and support, our CCSD leadership team has been working diligently over the last three months to address the most important aspects of health and safety of our 2,700 students and more than 500 teachers and staff.”
Duty said the traditional plan was submitted to the School Board. It included on-campus learning.
“It is important to note that this restart plan is subject to change,” she added. “There are still many variables regarding COVID-19 and its impact; we are continuing to review public health updates, state executive orders, and local guidelines. Please understand these plans must be flexible and allow for revisions as new health data is released.”
Duty stressed that the school board sets the policies directly on the health and well-being of students, staff, and community.
“We are planning simple, yet strict wellness screenings for all adults and students as they arrive to school,” she stated. “This may consist of daily temperature and symptom checks. Additionally, we have expanded the hours of our custodial staff and implemented extra safety measures inside our buildings to further strengthen our health protocols.”
Duty also stressed the importance of the community’s full cooperation. “Together we can tackle these challenges and do what is best for our children."
A rolling start will be used to allow for having the wellness checks and for students and teachers to get used to the new protocols that must take place during school. All students will follow the revised 2020-21 school calendar as adopted by the school board. The new calendar divides the school year into six grading periods.
Students must attend on-campus classes daily. Parents who feel that home learning must occur may register their child for distance learning. Distance learning lessons will be provided by the teacher and work assigned for the child to complete at home. Distance learning assignments will be graded, and grading policies will apply to all students.
Distance learning must continue for a full six weeks. Until the CARES Act funds are available, devices for all students cannot be provided by the school district. They will be available where and when possible on a case-by-case basis.
School travel will be provided by school district buses. Masks are required because buses will be susceptible to exposure at all times. Students and bus drivers must wear masks or face coverings that follow dress code while inside the bus.
Hand sanitizer will be available on each school bus. Drivers will sanitize the bus at the end of bus route with spray sanitizer.
No field trips will be scheduled until further notice. Social distancing must be used when possible. The school district recommends parents carry students to and from school when they can.