In classroom or at home? Columbia County schools say the choice is yours

Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 11:06 PM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Columbia County School District officials are offering up recommendations for what the next school year will look like. They’re hoping students will come back to campus for traditional learning, but they’re leaving it up to parents to decide.

District officials say they were faced with a tough choice. Having kids home all day would be an inconvenience for parents who need to go to work. But some students have health concerns or just aren’t ready to return to their crowded schools.

So, parents, the choice is yours. In these unprecedented times, one thing is for sure: The way we live and learn will still look different at least for a while longer.

“There’s not going to be a vaccine in all likelihood come August 3,” said Dr. Sandra Carraway, Columbia County superintendent.

The Georgia Department of Education is leaving the decisions up to each district, and Columbia County officials say they have a plan.

The expectation is that all students will come back to the classroom for regular school, but parents can choose if they want to keep their kids home.

“We have medically fragile children, families with at-risk family members -- families who may not be comfortable,” Carraway said.

If they choose that option, the student will have to stay home for at least the whole grading period and learning from home won’t be as lenient as it was in the spring.

“With the start of a new school year, there’s new instruction, there’s new material, and we will have to shift back into a level of instruction again that meets the same expectations as a traditional learning environment,” she said.

But coming to school won't be perfect either. While masks will not be required, the school says they'll try their best to promote social distancing, but it's going to be tough

“We will make great effort to reduce population, crowds in cafeterias. Maybe allowing students to eat in classrooms,” Carraway said.

It'll come down to extra cleaning, extra precautions when kids aren't feeling well, and some extra patience. The district says this is the plan if the virus stays the way it is now, but if infections reach a moderate level, they have a plan to battle that as well.

They'll split the students up into two groups that will come to school on different days and learn from home on the others.

And lastly, if infection rates get even worse: everyone will learn from home.

For parents, if you want to keep your kid home for the first nine weeks, you'll have to let the district know by July 1.

And in another large school district, Richmond County educators say they are waiting on the data from parent surveys before announcing any decisions.

Columbia County schools’ 2020-21 plan breakdown

Parents can choose whether to send their kids back to school:

If they choose for kids to learn from home, they will need to be home for a full grading period (nine weeks), and parents need to apply for that option by July 1:

  • This will be more rigorous than what distanced learning was in the spring.
  • Computers will be provided to students who need them at home.

If they choose to go back to school, no action required (that is the expectation for all students):

  • Masks will not be required.
  • Educators will have to figure out how to arrange desks to keep kids safe and implement fewer group work activities.
  • Educators will try to have the smallest class sizes possible.
  • There will be continued disinfecting.

Before- and after-school programs will be available.

If the virus increases moderately during the school year, the Columbia County district plans to move a modified school plan where students come some days and learn from home on some days, split into groups and the groups come in on different days.

If the virus increases substantially, officials aim to move to distanced learning completely.

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