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Back to school in the CSRA: What you need to know

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 5:56 AM EDT
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We’re getting a better idea of what school might look like this fall in districts and on university campuses across the CSRA.

Here’s what we know:

Richmond County

Reopening plans for Richmond County public schools were just announced last night at the board of education meeting.

The new plans offer two different options for families:

  • A traditional face-to-face model Monday through Thursday. Students will learn remotely on Fridays.
  • A virtual learning option where students work from home.

For those who choose to go back to school, there will be increased sanitation of buses and schools.

There will be updated meal services to prevent the spread -- and designating flowpaths in hallways.

For those who choose to learn from home, you'll have to register by July 20.

There will be block schedules for students and they will be able to still participate in extracurricular activies.

Richmond County school officials surveyed their students and teachers on several things like masks.

Nearly 78% of staff and 69% of students said they should be required to wear masks.

They also asked parents if they're concerned to send their kids back to school in August. Officials said 67% said they are concerned, and 31% said they're not.

Columbia County

If your kids attend Columbia County schools, today’s the last day you can apply for your child to learn from home this fall.

As officials have said, it's up to parents to decide. if you want your child to physically go back to school, no action is required right now.

But if you choose the learn-from-home option, you do have to apply. Again, today is the deadline. Students learning remotely will have to do so for at least the first nine weeks.

For those going back to school, masks will not be required, but other precautions will be in place.

Before- and after-school programs will be available.

Aiken County

The Aiken County superintendent says it’s not likely that all students will be coming back to a normal schedule.

The district has a task force is working to create a healthy environment, and its plan is likely to give parents the option of choosing only virtual learning, or in-person instruction, once it’s safe.

Educators plan to have a gradual transition from hybrid to traditional learning.

The task force will present its recommendations to board members and parents at a meeting on July 14.

Washington County

The Washington County Public School District will offer three options:

  • A traditional Monday-through-Friday schedule with students attending class on campus. School will start Aug. 7 under this option.
  • A hybrid option, with students attending class at school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and participating in distance learning on other days. The first day of class would be Aug. 11 under this option.
  • A virtual/distance learning option with all learning taking place from home.

For students attending classes at schools, safety measures will include multiple temperature checks, frequent hand washing/sanitizing, face masks during passing and when students are within 6 feet of each other, and one-way hallways and/or staggered passing.

For more information and to select an option for your child, visit https://www.washingtoncountyschoolsga.org.

The option selection forms are due back on July 13.

McDuffie County

The McDuffie County School System has outlined its plans to reopen schools to students on Aug. 3 for the fall semester.

The school district said although it believes face-to-face instruction is the best practice for students, families will have two instructional options for the semester, contingent on public health data and any changes to executive orders by Gov. Brian Kemp.

A virtual open house will be conducted for parents and students. Information will be announced on the system Facebook page in coming weeks.

The instructional models are:

Instructional Model 1

  • Elementary, middle and high school students return to school for face-to-face instruction with safety measures in place.
  • Students and employees are encouraged to wear face coverings/masks when on campus and on system buses.
  • Students will be asked to practice social distancing in hallways and commons areas within the schools. Student movement will be limited as much as possible.
  • Employees and students will be discouraged from sharing equipment and supplies within classrooms.
  • Non-essential visitors and volunteers will not be allowed on campus.
  • Protocols will be in place to ensure buildings and buses are properly sanitized.
  • If the need arises to close a classroom or school due to COVID-19, virtual learning would be in effect for all students.

Instructional Model 2

  • Elementary, middle, and high school students may opt to engage in virtual learning from home.
  • A virtual learning enrollment form, available at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd6PZs7cjV1DmWkYOCchWHKyo9q1HwnnrcQQo27KFgbC4d6_w/viewform, must be completed by 11:59 p.m. July 16. Details of the virtual learning instructional option are located in attachment below.
  • Students will access instruction through Google Classroom.
  • Teachers will post assignments and provide direct instruction through recorded videos, live video chats and other resources.
  • Students will earn grades based on mastery of the material in a specified timeline as issued by their teacher.
  • Student attendance will be recorded during virtual learning.
  • Computer/device, internet and access to a phone are required. Some families may qualify for limited technology assistance, with information sent after the online registration form is completed.

Options for the spring semester will be determined by public health data and guidance available at the end of the fall semester.

Augusta University

Augusta University will begin reopening its campus today.

While the school is encouraging masks, they're not required, and that's got some professors worried about safety.

AU has been a big player in coronavirus research and has always encouraged mask-wearing.

That's why some professors say they're confused why it won't be mandatory on campus.

“I’m extremely disappointed because neighboring states, the state university systems, have established mandatory mask wearing,” said Dr. Michael B. Bishku, a professor at AU. “In our particular case, we’ve got a commuter campus, and people are coming from all different areas.”

AU officials say they’re following guidance from the University System of Georgia, but they say they have purchased two masks for every faculty, student and staff member.

Professors are also given the option to choose to do online learning if they don't feel comfortable in their classrooms.

AU plans to be fully staffed by Aug. 3.

Other campuses

  • The University of South Carolina Aiken will start in-person instruction again on Aug. 20. There will be no fall break. After Thanksgiving break, students will finish fall break. After Thanksgiving break, students will finish the semester online. Students will also wear face masksduring class.
  • Aiken Tech will begin classes on Aug. 17. Officials say most classes will either be online-only or in a hybrid format. On-campus services like the library and student success center just opened this week. Everyone is required to wear a mask.
  • Face-to-face classes at Augusta Tech started back on May 11

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