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Big districts with deep pockets point to regular Covid-19 testing for teachers and students as the only option. On Friday, Jefferson City Schools -- about an hour northeast of Atlanta -- will be the first district in Georgia to " reopen schools for face-to-face instruction." Until then, here’s what schools can learn from districts that have forged ahead on their own. The school reported at least 20 new confirmed cases among students and staff between Nov. 2 and Nov. 15, according to school district statistics. "My biggest concern is he catches something and then brings it back to my wife," Zack Davies said. Arming buildings against the virus wasn’t cheap. “There were so many things unknown, still very much unknown, that we didn’t want to come in with ‘this is the end all, be all on this,’” Robinson said in an interview. Lessons were entirely online until Nov. 16. Georgia's Path To Recovery for K-12 Schools is a document that has been focused on health and physical requirements necessary for reopening school facilities across the … Where: Paulding County School District, northwest Georgia. “I was worried I was getting behind, and now I realize I’m ahead,” he said. Superintendent Gregg Palmer said the plan to help them get through the pandemic was: “Wear your masks and return to school with a hybrid model.”. Charlie Baker, a Republican, issued new guidance in November that recommended school districts rely on hybrid learning instead of fully remote classes in communities where coronavirus transmission is considered to be high by the state. But the district didn’t make teaching those students in-person mandatory, creating a voluntary policy for teachers willing to come in. Number of students: About 1,600 students: Just under 1,000 students in K-8 and about 700 students in high school. Virtual and hybrid. "I'm a nurse, and I work with the elderly," she said. “It’s probably more difficult and more challenging than some families expected.”. Education equity concerns are starting to edge out virus concerns, and states are weighing the risks and rewards of reopening schools. But that wasn’t enough to prevent a shutdown from a second outbreak as Covid-19 cases surge across the country. ATLANTA — Georgia's governor said Monday that the reopening of some of the state's schools amid the … Superintendent Rocco Tomazic said the bipolar ionizers alone cost the district $206,000, paid for with the second round of federal coronavirus aid money and $130,000 from the district’s capital reserve account. But Zack Davies is worried about the students who are going back to classrooms. Virtual, hybrid or in-person? In-person/hybrid with an option for virtual learning. What has emerged is a patchwork of strategies that reveals lessons about what works — and what doesn’t. The district teamed with the University of California, San Diego and sought advice from nine experts there on how to reopen schools in the face of Covid-19. “Every day is a challenge,” he said. From July 1 through Sept. 30, there was a 57 percent increase in its part-time program – more than 231,100 new course enrollments, according to school officials. ", In a letter to parents, the school district said it's important to take precautions seriously and keep schools open ", The school district recognized "there will be. “You’ve got to figure out a way to stay open once you open, not flip flop back and forth.”, Where: The Mehlville School District, St. Louis, Number of students: About 10,000, pre-K-12. Other districts are giving families — and teachers — a choice in the matter, leaving it up to individuals if they want to reenter classrooms. On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the nation's largest school district will begin a phased reopening on Dec. 7. But he noted the ionizers are one of his proudest achievements. The four schools in the district… She's been trying to quarantine in a different room after her older son's infection, but her husband is worried about the younger son getting infected at school. Something like that for her, we're looking at weeks. Still, teachers in quarantine have connected virtually into physical classrooms, and in some cases, both teachers and students are quarantined so they move to temporary remote learning, Gaines said. Heidi Stinebrickner, president of the Shenendehowa Teachers Association, a group that wrote a letter this summer pushing for a more inclusive all-remote option, said the change in atmosphere described by Robinson was “accurate.”, “It's not perfect, not everyone’s happy about it,” said Stinebrickner, an 8th grade math teacher in the district. Virtual, hybrid or in-person? Its full-time program enrollment grew by approximately 98 percent, or by 5,644 students, compared with last year. By mid-October, cases began climbing again at North Paulding High. Viral photos of packed hallways made North Paulding High School and its northwestern Georgia school system the topic of a national conversation over the summer. "I feel our children are going to be fine. Schools in Florida are open for in-person learning and offer online options through FLVS or locally developed online platforms. The early childhood center closed Nov. 18-Dec. 7 because one-third of the staff is quarantined. The district says schools notify public health authorities when confirmed cases arise in buildings, then attempt to identify close contacts of the infected. His plan for reopening now looks much like … The school district at the beginning of October began offering in-person instruction to about 3,500 students with high needs — such as those with disabilities, experiencing homelessness or with limited English proficiency — only to shutter all classrooms several weeks later when the city’s coronavirus positivity rate shot up to 5.7 percent. “Because I had to delay for the air filtration, I think I ended up better,” Tomazic said, noting that other districts in New Jersey that rushed to open have been forced to close repeatedly because of outbreaks or staff members quarantining. Boston Public Schools began the school year in September with virtual instruction for all students and plans to gradually resume in-person classes beginning in October. The Lowndes County School Board of Education voted 5-1 Monday on its 2020-2021 reopening plan, which will include options for virtual learning and in-person instruction this fall. About 5% of students have chosen virtual learning, the superintendent said. “It is a really adaptive challenge,” Marten said. Students who were forced to stay home could still study remotely. The result was a plan that launched in November to test all students and staff every two weeks, regardless of whether they have symptoms. Frustrated parents worried about the quality of distance learning have criticized the limited access to instruction and slow pace of reopening, but Marten pointed to districts across the country that have had to close because of outbreaks, saying that could be more disruptive than it’s worth. Even so, there was little disruption to learning because students could shift to virtual lessons they were already used to. Reopened schools in Georgia’s Paulding and Cherokee counties drew negative attention this week after viral photographs appeared to show students packing hallways with little regard for social distancing or mask-wearing. 08/10/2020 03:53 PM EDT . Coming off of little national guidance other than President Donald Trump’s imperative to open schools, the pressure is on President-elect Joe Biden to deliver his campaign promise of more emergency funding for schools and “clear, consistent, effective” national guidelines. A few weeks of steadily declining case reports followed. Date closed for in-person classes, date reopened: Closed April 1 under a statewide order from Gov. Officials also shut in-person instruction at one the district’s elementary schools for at least part of this week, after administrators said Covid-19 cases discovered during Thanksgiving break put “a large number” of students and staff into quarantine. The district returned to in-person learning with a hybrid model that’s been bumpy, upset by the latest Covid wave. The groups initially were created based on alphabetical order but also took households into consideration to make sure that parents were able to arrange child care plans. The district went into full-on fortification mode, keeping teaching entirely online while it outfitted its three school buildings’ ventilation systems with bipolar air ionizers, scraped off floor wax and replaced it with a special anti-microbial coating, installed plastic desk dividers and added HEPA air purification units. Brian Kemp. School officials have said they plan to reinstate in-person learning for all high-needs students when the city’s positivity rate remains below 5 percent for two consecutive weeks and begin the phased-in return to classes for other students when the rate falls below 4 percent for two consecutive weeks. "Our school leaders are focused on establishing a culture that promotes the importance of wearing face coverings along with other recommended mitigation strategies, which include social distancing and frequent hand washing. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Atlanta. But that target reopening timeline aligned precisely with a second wave of coronavirus cases, sending the city backpedaling. But tensions were borne out of its remote learning offering — which families could not opt into at the time simply for feeling uneasy about the virus or having objections to in-person instruction beyond their child’s health conditions or that of a family member. Georgia school officials released guidelines Monday on how to reopen the state’s public schools for the 2020-2021 school year amid the coronavirus pandemic. “The aggressive quarantining seems to be effective,” Gaines said. So after trying to return to a 2020 version of in-person learning, climbing cases forced county education officials to rethink some of their plans. SDEA says schools should not reopen until proven “scientifically safe” and that local Covid-19 rates need to decline before that is considered. Link Copied. The district closed buildings in mid-March, when Democratic Gov. As of mid-November, almost 1,600 students had been quarantined and of that group four tested positive while 37 total students from the district have tested positive. Before the November outbreak, Palmer said there “was a lot of pressure for Maine schools to fully reopen from their local communities.”, “We had been in school a month and a half, cases were low and people were saying, 'why aren't you fully reopening?’” Palmer said. "For the most part, our community trusts the leaders in Jefferson City Schools to make decisions that are in the best interest of our students and staff," McMullan said. Phil Murphy ordered schools shuttered as cases began to soar in the New York-New Jersey region. Wednesdays were left as a “flex day and were used by staff to teach students that needed the most help. The Mehlville School District spent an estimated $3 million over the better part of a decade to provide all K-12 students with their own Chromebooks. ", On Friday, Jefferson City Schools -- about an hour northeast of Atlanta -- will be the first district in Georgia to ". The frustration felt by Shenendehowa Central Schools parents last summer over a remote learning option once labeled too restrictive has cooled in recent months, its superintendent said in an interview — even to his surprise. Those who qualify are struggling academically or are special education students who need “intense support.”. Employees have had to quarantine, either after failing the district’s screening or because of a close contact with a positive case. The city has since reopened just four schools that serve about 200 students with special needs. “Absent a national or state response, we had to come up with one on our own and I do believe what we've developed with UCSD is a replicable and scalable model,” she said. Georgia Students Pack Hallway Without Masks, Superintendent Downplays GA School Reopening Kids Crammed in the Hall ... 'No Practical Way To Enforce' Mask Mandate. In early November, Otott and North Paulding Principal Gabe Carmona announced plans to stick with a hybrid schedule and delay the campus’ planned expansion of in-person instruction until after Thanksgiving break — citing a “concerning number of new Covid-19 cases” in the high school’s community. Reopened with a hybrid/staggered schedule model Sept. 22 for grades pre-K-2, Oct. 6 for grades 3-5, Oct. 8 for grades 6-8 and Oct. 27 for grades 9-12. While many of the nation’s largest school systems have opted in recent weeks to start the academic year online, other districts have forged ahead with reopening. One group attends classes in-person only on Mondays and Thursdays, and the other attends on Tuesdays and Fridays. The school district quickly went from enrolling students in a total of 1,500 online courses strictly for high school students to needing an entirely remote learning option for 14,000 of its students at all grade levels this fall. "It's scary, because the camp, they've done all the precautions that they can," he said. ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 16: General view as Ciara Surprises Amazon Future Engineer Students at Paul Duke STEM High School on December 16, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. The district encourages students and staff to wear masks but says face coverings are a “personal choice” and not required. But somebody with lupus -- it's a tougher fight for her. He credits the time he spent waiting for the filtration upgrades and his commitment to having kids remain in online classes for a full six-hour-plus school day for his success. Reopened in-person for students with high needs on Oct. 1 before shifting back to all-virtual on Oct. 22. (WTXL) — School districts across the Big Bend and South Georgia have announced tentative dates for when schools will reopen for the 2020-2021 school … Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson said the remote learning option unveiled over the summer adhered to requirements under state guidance to accommodate populations vulnerable to Covid-19 — specifically students and family members in high-risk groups. Reopened for special education classes first on Nov. 16, and plan to reopen for other students Dec. 14, Virtual, hybrid or in-person? Robinson said his intention was always to absorb community feedback. Districts across the U.S. seem to agree that the most at-risk students should have access to in-person learning first and foremost, and that a hybrid attempt, allowing at least some in-person teaching, is better than a rush back to the real thing or nothing at all. Families have been “supportive” of the district this fall thanks to its willingness to revisit decisions made earlier in the reopening process, Robinson said. Brewer Schools once beat a small coronavirus outbreak with quick contact tracing and a mandatory self-quarantine protocol that allowed the school to remain open. Closed for in-person classes Nov. 16 for grades 9-12 until Jan. 5, largely because of workforce shortages, and closed Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 for grades K-8 to allow time for symptoms to show from transmissions over Thanksgiving break. Having the mix of in-person lessons and online classes turned out to be especially useful when the entire high school of about 700 students was shut down by the state’s public health agency days before Thanksgiving. The Georgia Department of Education and Georgia … The guidance says schools should only close as a “last resort” in areas where coronavirus cases are extremely high, a designation that as of early November included only a handful of communities across the state. Before the pandemic, Horry County depended on Florida’s virtual classes to offer select courses to high school students that the district doesn’t offer. Bush was instrumental in growing FLVS from a pilot program in two counties to an organization with a massive reach. For the Davies, both their 14-year-old and 8-year-old sons won't be able to go to school Friday due to the older son's infection. Reopened four schools for in-person learning for special needs students on Nov. 16. ", 'So unsettling': Mother on experience at back-to-school open house, Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer describes side effects. Across the US, countless parents are riddled with anxiety -- for different reasons. Schools in Jefferson, Georgia, welcomed students back into the classroom Friday -- the first in the state to reopen for in-person learning. "So I contacted them and said my child is not the one with special circumstances, but I am.". A second grade student listens to a lesson at Wesley Elementary School in Middletown, Conn. | Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action. “When there are a total of three positive cases within 14 days of one another the Maine Center for Disease Control (MCDC) can identify it as an outbreak and decide to close a school in order to exercise appropriate caution and stop further spread of the virus,” Palmer told parents in a note. Thousands more students enroll in a hybrid model where they are on campus for two days each week and take classes the rest of the time through the district’s version of Florida’s online courses.“It’s not easy to turn on a dime and develop hundreds of courses,” said Edi Cox, Horry County Schools’ executive director of online learning. 12/02/2020 04:30 AM EST . Only a small percentage of the workforce that quarantined has tested positive. And it's scary.". In-person for K-6th grade; hybrid grades 7-12; all-remote learning option for students who meet certain criteria. “I think our families realize now that the curriculum is rigorous,” Cox said. The school district this semester licensed the FLVS ready-made curriculum and tweaked it to meet South Carolina’s standards, drastically widening its online ability. "I recognize there are feelings of apprehension, considering schools have been closed since March 16, 2020. All virtual, with limited hybrid. Boston school officials have also clashed with the city’s teachers union over how and whether to safely open schools. The Georgia Department of Education will continue to provide guidance and recommendations to districts and schools on navigating the academic, social, … “And we were saying, ‘We're looking at that, but we don't want to fully reopen and then have cases go up and have to fully shut down.’”. DOWNLOAD … 183.5K; 8/4/2020 … A photo of a Georgia school’s reopening has gone viral for its lack of social distancing and COVID-19 safety precautions. Only students who were contacted by the district will attend school fully remotely. Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, is now struggling to control the coronavirus as students return to school and the state's death toll hits record highs. Schools Reopen In Georgia With Varying Levels Of Success Some schools in Georgia opened this week for in person instruction. "And looking around at the data in the area, with the infection rates what they are right now, there's no way we can see that they can keep not only the kids safe, but all the staff, the adults (safe). One thing that’s clear is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to educating kids in-person during a pandemic. He said he planned to meet the basics of state guidance first. Twenty percent of the students in the district use some form of special education services, 18 percent are English-language learners, and 77 percent are free and reduced lunch recipients. Following the Nov. 23 alert, the school nurse and administrators reached out to families of students who may have been exposed to the virus but ultimately said there was “no way to conclusively determine where a case originated due to community spread.” In other words, the contract tracing that prevented disruption to in-person classes earlier in the school year wouldn’t fully work this time. San Diego Unified has a gradual approach to reopening, allowing elementary students identified as having the greatest needs to get appointment-based in-person instruction.
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