Over 2,000 more opt for virtual learning in Richmond County

Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 11:35 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Over 18,000 students in Richmond County will be starting the school year virtually, officials from the Richmond County School System say.

New numbers from the district show a total of 18,644 students have signed up for virtual learning ahead of the Sept. 8 start date for school.

District officials say 2,398 more students opted in for virtual learning after Richmond County extended the deadline to sign up through last Friday. It was a 14.76 percent increase over the July 30 numbers, which showed 16,246 students had signed up.

Those numbers show roughly more than half of Richmond County students will be firing up a laptop this fall instead of receiving face-to-face instruction.

“We’d rather be safe than sorry,” Richmond County grandparent Lisa Klaus said.

Klaus has been playing it safe with her granddaughter since the beginning of the pandemic. The second-grader has severe asthma, so when the option to learn from home was on the table, the choice was simple.

“I notified her teacher, got her opinion about it, and she totally agreed with me because Gabby had some severe issues in kindergarten and first grade,” Klaus said.

The increase comes as several districts in the CSRA and the state are already seeing a handful of COVID-19 cases pop up after schools opened on Aug. 3.

In Columbia County, four out of five high schools in the school district there have confirmed cases of the virus.

Over in Dallas, Georgia, a high school there had to be shut down after photos surfaced online showing a hallway packed with students. Six students and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19 there.

Lynthia Ross with the Richmond County School System says they’ve been watching what’s happening in the neighboring county, but it hasn’t had too much of an impact on their plan for the year.

“Do you observe and see what’s happening around you? Yes, but our plan was already in place and we’ve been moving forward with the plan that we have,” Ross said.

Ross says all hope is not lost for those who still want to do at home learning. The district closed registration so schools could plan.

In about two weeks, she says the district will be able to provide more opportunities for at-home learning, as long as the technology is available.

“Patience is gonna be a big thing through all this,” Klaus said.

Klaus is prepared to cut her hours at work to make time to teach. She says even though learning from home isn’t ideal, it’s better than the risk of her granddaughter getting sick.

“I feel like they listen better at school. They have more structure at school,” Klaus said. “There’s too much free time at home, so it’s gonna be a challenge.

Ross says the district is working to become a one to one district, meaning one device for every child. They aren’t there quite yet, so resources may not be available for every student to learn from home.

At last check, 4,355 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Richmond County with 90 deaths.

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