By Tia Lynn Ivey
Morgan County school students will not see the inside of a classroom again until the end of April at the earliest. As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc across the country, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced last week that all Georgia schools must be closed until April 24, issuing an executive order extending school closures by another month on March 26. School closings are part of a multifaceted strategy of social distancing and self-isolating to slow the spread of COVID-19, a highly contagious and potentially lethal upper-respiratory virus currently sweeping the nation.
“I am deeply grateful to State School Superintendent Richard Woods, the Georgia Department of Education, superintendents, and parents for keeping us informed and helping us make the right decision for our students,” said Kemp during the announcement. “Throughout this process, we will continue to seek the advice of public health officials, school leaders, and families to ensure the health and safety of the educational community. As we approach April 24, 2020, we ask for continued patience and flexibility since circumstances may change, but we encourage families to stay strong and follow the guidance of federal, state, and local leaders in the weeks ahead.”
Dr. James Woodard, superintendent of Morgan County Schools, released a video message on Friday, March 27, to parents and students further explaining what families can expect in coming weeks. Woodard also alluded to even more cancellations and postponements of school-related activities and events in the weeks and months to come.
“While this is not an ideal situation, we absolutely respect those in decision-making positions and admire the leadership that is required during these tough times. Morgan County, let me make this very clear, we love your children. We want your children to be in school and we will work to make this time as stress free as possible. Our teachers and staff are heartbroken and desire to have your children in the classroom.”
Woodard assured families that tough decisions are being made in the best interest of the students, parents, staff and community as a whole.
“Our heart breaks as we make these decisions. However, we love you and know that these decisions are being made with you in mind,” said Woodard.
In the meantime, Woodard and other school officials are scrambling to bridge the “Internet-gap” in Morgan County, in which students living in rural parts of the county are having trouble accessing online class lessons and materials to complete while school is closed.
“Connectivity is a challenge in some areas [in the county],” said Woodard. “But we are working with businesses, industries and churches to provide a list of WIFI hotspots. We will also be testing and deploying buses into our communities to provide WIFI opportunities. I am very proud of our technology teams and how they are providing connectivity accessibility and technology instruction. This has been an issue and we will not solve these issues anytime soon. However we are working with partners to work in this arena.”
Woodard also announced the “suggested” school assignments will be available during Spring Break week, which begins on April 6 to help students “stay engaged” academically.
School lunches will also be provided for Spring Break week and can be picked up on Friday, April 3 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Morgan County High School, Morgan County Middle School, Rutledge Baptist Church and Buckhead Baptist Church.
Woodard encouraged everyone to take COVID-19 pandemic seriously and to shelter-in-place as much as possible. He specifically warned the youth to join the fight against Coronavirus.
“Since I spoke last, the City of Madison approved a Shelter-In-Place ordinance.
I have received input from a few that our students, teachers, staff and parents may not be taking this seriously,” said Woodard. “While I will not play the role of enforcement, I do encourage all to adhere to this ordinance. More importantly, heed the guidance provided by the CDC to help slow down and stop the spread of this virus. Young people, I know how hard this is. But please, I implore you to help. Take personal responsibility and parents please emphasize the necessity of stopping this virus as soon as possible.”