The George County School District will begin its new school year on Thursday, August 6, just like every other year, but there will be a few important changes.
The Mississippi Department of Education gave school districts across the state three options for beginning the new school year in the wake of the COVID-19, and the early shut-down of in-classroom learning last spring. Those three options were districts could meet the 180-day teaching requirement by implementing one or more of traditional classroom learning, virtual learning, or a hybrid of in-person and distance learning. The types of schedules may vary among schools in the same district to meet the different learning needs of students in elementary, middle and high school.
To help districts develop class schedules, the number of daily instructional hours required was reduced from five-and-one-half hours to four hours per day.
George County chose the traditional option.
“The decision regarding how the George County School District will reopen schools for the 2020-2021 school year has been a weighty one,” said Superintendent Wade Whitney in a press statement on Tuesday morning. “The George County School District understands the magnitude and the importance of this decision. In an effort to make the most informed and educated decision as possible, the George County School District held countless meetings with our local school and district-level administration, analyzed both staff and parent survey results, received recommendations from our school board and local health care professionals and also took guidance from federal, state and local agency recommendations.
In recent weeks the school district sent out automated phone surveys to staff and parents. Options for the 20/21 school year were explained in social media posts and on a pervious automated call. Results showed a majority of those questioned want the traditional option compared to hybrid and a third option of a combination of traditional and hybrid. In the parent survey traditional received 63% of the votes compared to hybrid (33%) and traditional/hybrid (7%). In the staff survey it was 55% traditional, 32% hybrid and 13% traditional/hybrid. 350 staff members took part in the survey compared to 2,0002 parents .
“With this being said and after analyzing all of the factors provided above, the George County School District plans to open school on August 6, 2020 with the traditional option as promoted,” Whitney continued. “Please know that this plan is fluid and subject to change based on future recommendations from our federal, state and local agencies as the start date of school approaches. The George County School District is prepared to consider alternative plans if needed. Our top priority will always be the health and safety of our students and staff.”
Given that this has been anything but a traditional year, just what does the traditional mean? Whitney knew there would be a lot of questions and provided answers to the most anticipated concerns parents may have.
They are as follows:
1. Are students going to return to school? If so, what will be the date?
Yes. Students are going to return to school on August 6, 2020. Students will have a regular daily schedule Monday through Friday. No extended or shortened days will be scheduled during the regular week.
2. Will buses run for transporting students? If yes, what, if any, new stipulations will be in place?
Yes. Buses will run for transporting students on a regular schedule and regular routes. Bus drivers and students will be required to wear masks or an appropriate face covering while on the bus. Masks may be provided for students who need them. We understand the concerns some parents may
have regarding their student wearing a mask and encourage you to provide your own transportation if at all possible. Fewer students on the buses will allow for better social distancing practices on the bus.
3. Will my child be required to wear a mask while in class?
Masks may be made available for students and staff members who wish to wear one based on the accessibility and availability of purchase. However, due to constant recommendation changes being made by federal, state and local agencies, we strongly recommend that you provide and be prepared for your student to wear a mask or an appropriate face covering.
4. Will my child be required to wear uniforms?
Yes. The uniform/dress code has not and will not change for the 2020-2021 school year.
5. Will breakfast and lunch be provided to my student?
Yes. All students will be receiving FREE breakfast and lunch for the 2020-2021 school year. Meals will be served as grab and go, delivered to rooms and/or staggered rotations through the cafeteria for sit down meals.
6. Can I send snacks/items to my child’s class?
Parents may send individual snacks for their student. Please do not send classroom snacks/items.
7. Will my child get to go outside for recess/breaks?
Yes. Students may be allowed to go outside for recess and breaks on staggered schedules. They will also be receiving regular enrichment classes such as PE, computer, art, library, etc.
8. Will I be allowed to visit my child’s class?
No. Parents/visitors will not be allowed to visit classrooms. Visitors to school buildings will be extremely limited.
9. How will students be dismissed from school each day?
Students will be dismissed from school in a staggered schedule to buses and car rider lines.
10. Will the school supply list be reasonable and affordable?
We have created district wide condensed school supply lists for each grade. These lists can be found on our district website.
11. Will there be field trips?
No. Students will not be going on field trips. Teachers will be engaging students through virtual field trips.
12. Will attendance be mandatory?
Yes. Your student will still be required to attend school every day unless you can provide documented health reasons from a health care provider as to why your child may not attend.
13. Will there be distance learning options for my child if I have a documented reason for them to not attend school?
Yes. Distance learning options will be provided for students who cannot attend school due to documented health concerns. However, if the distance learning option is chosen, you will be required to maintain that learning option for the entire semester. Also, students participating in the distance learning option will not be allowed to participate in athletic or other extracurricular activities.
14. What if my child requires distance learning options and I don’t have internet or a device?
We will work with parents on a case by case basis to help meet the academic and technology needs of individual students.
15. How will social distancing be practiced at school?
Teachers will be adjusting their classrooms to allow for students to spread out as much as possible. Schools will encourage social distancing among students.
16. What kinds of measures will be taken to ensure that buildings are sanitized?
Our staff will be ensuring that all classrooms, bathrooms, cafeteria and all high traffic areas are routinely cleaned and sanitized. Extra supplies are being purchased and each classroom will be stocked with necessary equipment. We also recommend students bring personal hand sanitizer if desired. We welcome parent donations of Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.
17. What kinds of safety measures are being put in place to help ensure the health of my student?
* All students and staff will be temperature checked daily.
* All schools will have a full-time nurse on campus every day.
* If a student has a fever of 100.4 or higher, they will be isolated until a parent picks them up.
* Hand sanitizer may be available in every classroom and use may be required when students enter and exit classrooms.
We strongly encourage parents to conduct daily temperature checks on their student. Do not send students to school if they have a temperature. Keep them home until they have been symptom free for 72 hours.
18. What happens if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?
The George County School District will follow the federal, state and local mandates related to staff and students who test positive for COVID-19.
19. Will athletic and other extracurricular activities resume as normal?
We will follow MHSAA guidelines and recommendations as it pertains to athletic events. Activities will resume as normal as possible and as allowed by federal, state and/or local mandates. Students participating in the distance learning option will not be allowed to participate in athletic or other extracurricular activities.
Whitney also provided some clarification on the traditional option and what it entails with the following list.
a. ALL students will go to school each day.
b. Students and bus drivers MUST wear face coverings/masks while on the bus.
c. Students will not be allowed to congregate in areas of the school upon arrival. Students will go directly to the cafeteria to pick up their grab and go breakfast. Then they will go directly to their classroom.
d. ALL students will be temperature checked each day.
e. ALL staff will have to keep a daily temperature check log.
f. Students in Pre-K-8 could potentially remain with the same group of students during the school day. And teachers could potentially move to the students.
g. Lunch will be grab and go for all students except possibly Pre-K and Kindergarten who may rotate through the cafeteria for meals.
h. At the high school, class change will be staggered and all hallway movement must be in the same direction.
i. ALL schools will have staggered release to the buses and car lines.
j. Students will be spread out as much as possible in the classroom to promote social distancing.
k. Recess and enrichment will still take place for the K-8 level. Groups must be spread out throughout the playground or gym. Staff must enforce limited physical contact between students.
l. Students with underlying documented health conditions may have distance learning as an option.
m. If a student is found with a temperature of 100.4 or higher, he/she will be placed in isolation until the parent/guardian can come pick him/her up from school. This student may not return to school until they have been symptom free without medicine for 72 hours.