Local districts prepare for school year amid delta variant concerns

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 6:48 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s hard to believe summer break is almost over. A week from Thursday, students in Columbia County and some students in Richmond County will head back to the classroom. But with rising concerns about the delta variant and changes in guidance over the past two months, many of you are probably wondering what the new year will look like.

We sifted through all of these plans and the biggest change, masks. Both Richmond and Columbia County schools say they’re still following the rest of the CDC guidelines to protect students and teachers.

The new school year is quickly approaching for Columbia and Richmond County schools and they say they’re ready for their students.

“We’re ready to receive their students be that on the bus when they bring them to the bus stop on Thursday morning for K-5 students and elementary schools or if it’s Monday when our high school students are driving into class,” said Lynthia Ross, Richmond County School System chief information officer.

For both counties masks are required on buses and now are encouraged instead of mandatory during the school day, there are new social distancing requirements of three feet instead of six, water fountains are still shut off, assemblies and field trips will be limited, individual schools get to decide if gym and recess will have staggered schedules and just like last year they won’t do close contact sports and games in gym classes.

“I absolutely support in-person instruction. A lot of students have lost an entire year. Education is important they need to be in the classroom, they need to be educated, and the risk overall for this disease seems low for that age group,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, vice president and chief medical officer of AU Health System.

Coule says schools have shown they are not a major cause of transmission but rather a reflection of what happens in the community. So both districts will need make any necessary changes to protect students and staff.

“The biggest message that our local public health partners have said if you’re eligible for the vaccine be vaccinated and that’s really the best thing that we can do to be able to keep our schools open,” said Ross.

Columbia County’s open house dates to meet teachers and ask questions start Thursday for high school, Aug. 2 for middle school, and Aug. 3 for elementary. In Richmond County open house dates for middle and high schoolers are Aug. 2 and for elementary and K-8, Aug. 3.

Richmond County students will be able to get lunches on a tray now instead of prepackaged meals. And Columbia County lunches will not be self-served.

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