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Here’s how 3 local districts plan to return kids to school

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 12:42 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Richmond County, Aiken County, and Columbia County discussed their plans to bring students back to school as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Georgia and South Carolina.

Richmond County

Richmond County School System held their committee meeting Tuesday at 4 p.m. That meeting was streamed on the district’s website.

[MORE: Read more about Richmond County School System’s back-to-school plans.]

Schools in Richmond County will have a delayed start until September 8 for both online and in-person learning. If cases continue to surge in the area, online learning will be the primary learning technique.

Teachers will undergo professional learning to better prepare them for virtual schooling and hygiene for in-person class.

The district is offering two options for Richmond County parents ahead of the beginning of the school year:

  • Traditional face-to-face school model Monday-Thursday with online learning on Friday.
  • Online-only school model throughout the week.

“Due to the nature of coronavirus, conditions can change quickly. Our plans for the safe return to school include the ability to transition quickly from a traditional model to a hybrid model or virtual model to protect the health and wellness of students, staff, and community,” the district said in a statement on its website.

If your student is a returning Richmond County student, you have until July 27 to decide if you’re going to enroll them in the online learning program. To enroll in online learning, head on over to the Richmond County School System website for more details.

Columbia County

The Columbia County School District held its scheduled board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Their meeting was streamed online.

[MORE: Read how the Columbia County School District is preparing to return to school.]

Columbia County school leaders unveiled their plans for the return to school early and gave parents until July 1 to decide between:

  • A traditional face-to-face model from Monday-Friday.
  • An online learning model.

New passed plan from the Columbia County School District:

  • Biggest changes: how they’re preparing for if a child has symptoms in the middle of the day, and how they’ll handle it if symptoms go away. If a child demonstrates symptoms and the symptoms go away, they must stay home until they are at least three days symptom-free.
  • Parents still get to pick if their child is full time traditional learning or full time learning from home.
  • Masks will be required for teachers and high schoolers. Masks will be recommended for elementary school.
  • August 3 is the proposed start day for all traditional or in-person learners.
  • Learn from home: elementary schoolers will start instruction on August 17, and middle/ high schoolers will start August 10.
  • 6th and 9th graders will have a physical open house, because they are new to the school. However, they will not have face to face meetings with teachers. It’s just a tour.
  • Pre-K will be in-person only. If a parent doesn’t want to send their Pre-K child to class in-person, their spot will be taken by another family on the waiting list.

Roughly 85% percent of students/parents have opted for in person learning

[MORE: Read a list of frequently asked questions from the Columbia County School District.]

If Columbia County parents still wish to enroll their student in the online learning model, you can submit your request in writing at contactus@ccboe.net.

Parents who made no decision on online learning will have their student automatically enrolled in the traditional model.

District officials have put together a constantly updating document on what to expect when it comes to health and safety guidelines on their website.

[MORE: Read Columbia County School District’s health and safety guidelines.]

Many of those health and safety guidelines go along with recommendations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and include:

  • Social distancing of at least 6 feet between students
  • Wearing a mask or face covering
  • Hand washing or hand sanitizing
  • Cleaning, sanitizing of classrooms

“We understand that anything less than a full-time, in-person school schedule strains many of our parents who have to go to work and cannot be home with their children. We also recognize that because of medically fragile students, at-risk family members, or other issues, some families may not be comfortable returning to a traditional classroom until a vaccine for COVID-19 is widely available,” a statement on the district’s website said.

Columbia County students are scheduled to return to school starting on Aug. 3, 2020.

Aiken County

The Aiken County Board of Education met at 6 p.m. to continue the discussion of their phased approach to back-to-school. The district streamed their meeting on their Facebook page.

After the meeting, the school district passed their finalized plan, 8 to 1, and introduced three distinct learning models.

In the hybrid model, 50 percent of students will work in-person two days a week and learn three days remotely. Fridays, teachers lesson plan.

In the traditional model, students and staff would still practice social distancing while 100 percent would attend in-person instruction for five days a week.

Temperatures would be checked daily. Students with 100 degree or higher would be sent home. They would be advised to wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible. Students will clean their own desks.

In the full-time virtual model via Aiken Innovate, grades K through 8 would be available for full remote instruction. All courses are designed by virtual SC, but students can stay enrolled in Aiken Schools. It would require a one semester commitment, offer office hours, and attendance for those grades would be taken daily.

For sports:

  • Athletes are not allowed to make contact
  • Sharing equipment will not be allowed.
  • Temperature screenings will be conducted every day.
  • Coaches must wear masks all the time
  • Athletes must wear masks whenever they’re not working out/active

Bus protocol:

  • One student per seat (assigned seats)
  • Everyone must wear a mask or face covering
  • Drivers will sanitize after every drop off.

The district originally proposed operating under four phases depending on the severity of the virus.

District officials have not said which phase that the district will be operating on yet.

School is scheduled to start in Aiken County starting on Aug. 17, 2020.

Returning to school in Georgia, South Carolina

State education officials in both states have largely encouraged individual districts to make the decision on whether or not to continue virtual learning or return to a face-to-face model.

In Georgia, state education leaders released a set of guidelines for district officials to follow called “Georgia’s Path to Recovery for K-12 Schools.” The guidelines, according to officials, are not mandated or required by the state.

“Georgia’s Path to Recovery for K-12 Schools focuses heavily on the health and physical requirements necessary for reopening school buildings. The Georgia Department of Education will continue to provide guidance and recommendations to districts and schools on navigating the academic, social, and emotional effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and employees,” a statement on the state’s website said.

South Carolina education officials, meanwhile, put together a task force to come up with a set of guidelines to help districts come up with a back-to-school plan.

The AccelerateED Task Force ultimately settled on several recommendations ahead of the school year.

“While there is no way students can gain back everything lost during the final months of the 2019- 2020 school year, we can, and should, take steps to ensure students are as prepared as possible for the 2020-21 school year,” a task force report said.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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