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Georgia Board of Education takes no action to alter start of school year

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 8:57 AM EDT
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ATLANTA (WRDW/WAGT) - The Georgia Board of Education met Thursday in a closely watched session but ultimately adjourned without taking major action that would affect the impending start of the school year across the state.

Earlier this week, the state Superintendent Richard Woods had said he supports the autonomy of local school boards to make the best decisions for students during the coronavirus pandemic.

School districts across the state have set a range of dates for the start of the fall semester, with varying options for parents to send students back to the classroom or else let learning take place at home.

A “committee of the whole” meeting as well as a regular board meeting were planned. A closed executive session also took place. Executive session matters often include personnel and legal issues.

Although the meeting was set to be live-streamed on its YouTube page and available for listening on a phone call, the phone call went silent soon after the meeting started at 10 a.m. That’s apparently because one of the first items on the agenda was the executive session.

The board exited executive session at about 11 a.m. and began discussing budget and contract issues. The long list of contract presentations continued past noon. The board then went on to hear a range of other presentations and moved some committee-approved items to the consent agenda.

Among the reports was one from Woods and his staff regarding legislation of interest to the board. The board then heard a report on a survey regarding the state’s request that the federal government ease requirements for standardized testing.

After hearing more reports, the board ultimately adjourned before 1:15 p.m., taking no action that would affect the start of the school year.

However, it appears, according to the Associated Press, that there was some type of proposal to delay the start date of schools statewide.

Gov. Brian Kemp spokesperson Candice Broce says the proposal was discussed with local superintendents and others, but the state Board of Education is not moving forward with it.

The meeting agenda

  • A. CALL TO ORDER - 10:00 A.M.
  • B. PUBLIC HEARING
  • 1. State Board of Education Rule: 160-4-2-.32 Student Support Team
  • C. EXECUTIVE SESSION
  • D. COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
  • E. BUDGET COMMITTEE ITEMS
  • 1. AA – Contract Amendment – Innovative Assessment Pilot Technical Assistance
  • 2. FP – Grant – FY21 Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership (GaPMP) Participation Grant
  • 3. FP – Grant – FY21 Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Supports (GNETS) Allocations
  • 4. FP – Grant – FY 21 Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Supports (GNETS) Supplemental Instruction Grant
  • 5. FP – Grant – FY21 State Allocation-Therapeutic Services Reimbursement for GNETS Fiscal Agents
  • 6. FP – Grant – FY21 Federal Formula Grant Awards
  • 7. FP – Grant – FY21 Education for Homeless Children and Youth Grant (McKinney-Vento)
  • 8. FP – Grant – FY21 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Grant Continuation Awards (UPDATED 7/21/2020)
  • 9. FP – Grant – FY21 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Grant Renewal Awards
  • 10. FBO – Authorization to Issue Bonds
  • 11. PFEA – Grant Amendment– Residential Treatment Facilities Grant
  • 12. PFEA – Grant – Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund Allocations to School Districts
  • 13. SI – Grant – FY21 RESA Supplemental Grants
  • 14. SI – Contract – FY21 Governor’s Office of Student Achievement – Graduate Ready to Attain Success in Postsecondary (GRASP) Program
  • 15. TL – Grant – FY21 State and CARES Act Agricultural Education Grants
  • 16. TL – Grant – FY21 Construction-Related Equipment Grants for Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE)
  • 17. TL – Contract – FY21 Federal High School Program Grants for Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) – CTAE Resource Network (CTAERN)
  • 18. TL – Grant – FY21 Federal High School Program Grants for Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE)
  • 19. TL – Grant – FY21 State and CARES Act High School Program Grants for Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE)
  • 20. TL - Contract Amendment - Learning Management System (LMS) - Instructure, Inc.
  • 21. TL – Other - Smokey Powell Center FY21 Plan and Budget
  • 22. TL – Contract – Evaluation for Continuous Improvement Contract for the Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading 2019 (L4GA 2019) Grant (Georgia State University)
  • 23. TL – Contract – Evaluation of Systems Contract for the Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading 2019 (L4GA 2019) Grant (Georgia Tech Research Corporation)
  • 24. TS - Contract Renewal - FY21 Computer AID, Inc.
  • 25. TS – Contract – Georgia Technology Authority (Updated 7-22-20)
  • 26. TS – Contract – Winegard (Updated 7-22-20)
  • 27. FBO - $50,000.01 - $250,000 Recurring Contracts List
  • F. RULES COMMITTEE ITEMS
  • 1. PFEA – Special Needs Scholarship Program- 2020-2021 Private School List (UPDATED 7/22/2020)
  • 2. PFEA – Strategic Waivers School Systems (SWSS) Contract Amendments
  • G. STATE SCHOOLS COMMITTEE ITEMS
  • 1. State Schools Opening Report - Dr. Kenney Moore
  • H. ITEMS FOR INFORMATION
  • 1. TL – Contract – Hawk, Inc.
  • 2. FP – Contract – Title I, Part C – Education of Migratory Children Database
  • 3. FBO - $50k and Under Report for May 2020
  • I. MINUTES
  • 1. State Board Meeting Minutes - June 18, 2020
  • 2. Called State Board Meeting Minutes - June 30, 2020
  • J. OTHER BUSINESS ITEMS
  • K. SUPERINTENDENT'S REPORT
  • L. CHAIR’S REPORT

Superintendent’s message

The meeting came a few days after the superintendent said that as school districts face many decisions during the coronavirus pandemic, he supports their autonomy to make the right choices for their students.

Woods made the statement in a news release issued Tuesday.

In it, he said:

School leaders, teachers, parents, students, families – and state leaders – have been making tough decisions since the onset of COVID-19 in our schools in March. I have stood with our schools since the first cases in the Fulton County School System.

Governor Kemp stood with our schools when he made the call to close schools across our state last spring. The Governor has been consistent in his commitment to public education – laser-focused on fully funding the education formula and providing our educators a much-deserved pay raise.

As a pandemic crashed into our state’s economy, the Governor made tough decisions that blunted the destructive blow to education funding and preserved progress on teacher pay raises. As a 28-year public-school educator myself, I want you to know he has been a true partner of mine in supporting public education and doing what’s best for students and educators.

With a new school year beginning, public education experts are again being called to make public health decisions.

The same people – school leaders, teachers, parents, students, families, and state leaders – are making tough decisions once again. These groups of Georgians all agree that the ideal educational environment for our children is in the classroom. Trust me, as a veteran educator myself, I know teachers want to get back into their classrooms, too. But I also know safety must be at the forefront.

Most of our school districts, in talking with their families, staff, communities, and evaluating public health data, are currently planning an in-person start to their school year. They are offering combinations of virtual options, hybrid models, or full in-person instruction.

Other districts, particularly those in our metro areas, where there are high population concentrations and high COVID-19 case counts, have decided to go with full online learning with a planned phase-in to in-person instruction.

The role of the Georgia Department of Education is to support the course of action decided upon by local school districts, so that we can work together to ensure a successful outcome for students.

Whatever the start of school looks like, no one can guarantee a start without hiccups or challenges, but I can guarantee we will do everything possible to ensure our students are safe and learning.

The community needs and public health data look very different from one area of the state to another. Macon, the city, is very different from Macon County. Decatur, the city, is very different from Decatur County. We must recognize that, honor that, and continue to let local communities and school districts make local decisions -- that’s how we will build trust and how we will get back to school safely.

It is critical that school districts establish an ongoing dialogue with their communities, students, families, and staff. Engaging them in restart efforts at the beginning and throughout the upcoming school year is key so they have buy-in and faith in this unique educational experience.

Let me be very clear: school districts and communities will continue to have my full support and commitment in the path they select. Whatever a school district’s decision, our issued guidance supports that model.

We are distributing face coverings, no-touch thermometers, hand sanitizing stations, and other supplies to all our schools so they are better prepared. We are also seeking a federal testing waiver so students and teachers can focus on what truly matters – health, safety, and learning.

Despite headlines that seek to pit state leaders against school leaders, the Governor and I have a proven record of working together alongside our educators and school leaders.

We will continue to be there alongside our school leaders and provide as much service and support as possible – every step of the way. We stood with our schools and educators in March when the virus started hitting our schools and we will continue to stand with them as they start the new school year, and throughout.

No doubt, there are many tough decisions still ahead, but we will get through them – together.

But one choice is clear – the health and safety of students and school staff, the true heroes of this on-going crisis, must remain paramount. We will continue to choose compassion over compliance.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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