Several rural CSRA districts close schools, switch schedules

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 11:36 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2021 at 7:30 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’re told some school leaders are choosing to take a more cautious route when it comes to this latest surge.

Both Jenkins and Warren County schools announced there will be no in-person classes through Labor Day.

The districts in Taliaferro, Glascock, Screven and Burke counties had already gone virtual.

Plus the McDuffie County School System announced Thomson-McDuffie Middle School will be closed through Aug. 29.

The Richmond County School System transitioned Belair K-8 School to a home learning model through Aug. 27. The students will return for in-person instruction on Aug. 30.

Emanuel County schools have gone to an A/B schedule to keep all the kids from being on campus at the same time. Students with last names A-K will attend school Mondays and Tuesday, L-Z on Thursdays and Fridays, and schools will be closed on Wednesdays for deep cleaning. This will last through at least Sept. 10.

Jefferson County schools are following a similar rotating schedule for middle and high school students, while elementary students are still following a five-day in-person learning model.

The majority of school districts that decided to go remote for the next few weeks made their decisions after numerous positive COVID cases in their schools.

We spoke with the superintendent of Warren County schools, and he says their decision was to be proactive instead of reactive.

“This decision is one I feel very confident about because it is one of out precaution and not one of we have no choice so this will allow us to keep educating our children safely,” said Christopher Harris Sr., Warren County superintendent.

Harris says the decision came after looking at other school districts seeing spikes of cases, and the impact spread could have on their whole community.

“But there’s also the challenge of being in a rural area with limited health care support and oftentimes having to go outside of the county to get the necessary services needed that it’s important to once again try to be proactive so you’re not in the situation where you have an outbreak with limited health care support,” he said.

Challenges like limited COVID tests, vaccine clinics, and quality care medical centers.

Jenkins County also made the same call, but their hand was forced after positive COVID cases. They will be virtual for the next two weeks and will adopt a hybrid system until the beginning of October. But Dr. Rodger MacArthur of Augusta University Health says despite schools closing to stop the spread, that’s not all it takes.

“What would really make a difference is that if in that time people got vaccinated,” said MacArthur

According to the Georgia Department of Health, 38 percent of Warren County and 27 percent of Jenkins County are fully vaccinated.

“It’s a mess but it can be managed,” said MacArthur.

In Jenkins County

All schools in Jenkins County will be closed to students from Aug. 23 through Sept. 8, according to a letter to parents.

Teachers and staff will return Sept. 7, and students will return Sept. 9.

When students return, they will follow an alternating schedule to ensure not all students are on campus at the same time.

Students with names starting with A through K will attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the rest of the students will attend on Thursdays and Fridays.

No students will attend school ion Wednesdays, which will be a teacher planning day.

Students will follow this schedule through Oct. 1.

The week of Oct. 4-8 will be fall break and the district is planning for all students to return face-to-face on Oct. 11.

In Warren County

Warren County kids will work on packets for the next two weeks since the county has so many connectivity issues. Leaders will use the time to make plans should they have to switch to be entirely remote.

Instructional packets will be available for pickup on Tuesday and are due on Aug. 30.

A second packet should be picked up on Aug. 30 and turned in on Sept. 7.

The times and details for pickup of packets will be announced in more detail on the district’s website and Facebook page on Friday.

“We fully anticipate returning to school in a traditional manner, five days a week” at some point, the district said.

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