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Columbia County moves to staggered schedules for middle, high schools

Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 12:08 PM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Just days ahead of the start of the school year, the Columbia County School District is revising its scheduling plans for many students who’ll return to in-person learning.

Middle and high school students’ schedules will be staggered, with students attending class every other day in alternating groups.

It’s all part of a back-to-campus plan driven by concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and tailored with social distancing in mind.

One group of students, Group A, will consist of students whose last names start with the letters A through K. They will return to classrooms on Aug. 3. The other group of students, with last names starting with the letters L through Z, will return to classrooms on Aug, 4.

On days when students aren’t on campus, they will learn from home.

The first two Fridays of the school year, Aug. 7 and 14, will be teacher planning days with no students on campus. After that, Fridays will be part of the rotation.

Children from blended families will be allowed to attend class on the same days. Parents can request this beginning Tuesday through a link on each school’s website.

For students whose parents opt for full-time learning at home instead of returning them to campus, the first day of school for elementary students will be Aug. 17 and the first day of school for middle and high school students will be Aug. 10.

Before the first day of learning, teachers will give students information on learning from home.

Dates for virtual open houses will continue as planned, and students new to the district and/or new to a particular school will be offered a chance to tour their new campus.

School leaders said earlier that parents of about 85 percent of students had opted to send them back to school for in-person learning instead of choosing all-remote learning.

The district earlier announced other measures, including:

  • All middle and high schoolers will have to wear masks during transitions, when gathered in large groups, on the bus and when social distancing is not possible.
  • Misters will be used to disinfect buildings and buses.
  • Spaced-out desks, sneeze guards and a disinfectant in the air system.

The move has been met with mixed reactions from parents like Kassie Gonzalez.

“My instant reaction was are you kidding me?” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez opted for in-person learning for her second-grade daughter, but now she’s nervous as the district changes its plans.

“I feel like they maybe don’t have a complete grip on how to handle the pandemic, and if that’s the case I feel like everyone should go virtual, to be honest,” Gonzalez said. “Instead of making all these changes seven days before the school year starts.”

Superintendent Sandra Carraway says the district had to take a second look at its plans, but administrators felt there would not be a benefit in pushing the school year back.

“Our primary thought on that was the chances of the virus decreasing between now and Labor Day wasn’t that strong,” Carraway said.

Carraway says the goal is to be fully back to school by the end of the year. She says if everyone does their part, they can achieve that goal and have a successful school year.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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