By Tia Lynn Ivey
Morgan County schools will reopen once again, after closing down in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the nation and entire world. Education officials across the country have been scrambling to craft academic plans to balance student learning with student safety. Morgan County school officials have opted to reopen all Morgan County Schools full-time in early August, implementing rigorous sanitation procedures and day-by-day monitoring of staff and student health. Hand-sanitizer stations will be in every class room, and while masks will not be mandatory, they will be “strongly encouraged.” The school system will have masks on hand for students and teachers who do not have masks or who forget them at home. School staff will also implement “enhanced social distancing” guidelines in each school.
The Morgan County Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday, July 7 to reopen schools on Aug. 6, adopting a revised school-year calendar to accommodate challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think it’s a prudent plan under the circumstances,” said Dr. Virgil Cole, superintendent of Morgan County Schools. “This plan is built on top of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s recommendations, but it’s also a good fit for Morgan County.
Dr. Cole noted that other school districts across the state are wading through a variety of plans to reopen that will look different depending on the rate of coronavirus cases in each particular community.
“The spread of coronavirus in Morgan County has been pretty low so far,” said Cole. “So, you will see different plants in different district, but we think this is best for our district and for our county.”
Morgan County schools will operate under a “regular schedule with regular times, following safety protocols as prescribed.”
“This is the preferred option to ensure rigor, engagement, and social interaction,” said Cole.
For parents who are still wary of sending their children back to school, Morgan County is offering full-time digital learning from home.
“The demands of an online course are equal to or exceed those of the traditional “face-to-face” course. Online instruction places more responsibility on the student,” said Cole. “The student, parent, and school recognize taking and succeeding in an online course require a partnership between the student, parent, and school. Internet access must be available for this option. Students opting for the online instruction will be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities and will be subject to the same eligibility requirements.”
According to Assistant Superintendent Jay Homan, primary and elementary school students opting for online schooling at home, must commit to nine full weeks at a time. For middle and high school students, they must commit to a full semester of at-home learning on online.
Also different this year, the school calendar will feature four digital learning days in August, September, October and March to establish a foundational structure for students and teachers in case coronavirus spreads among students or schools even have close again.
“The new plan crafted by local educations will follow the lead of the Georgia State Board of Education, recommending system-wide digital learning days for students to reduce the number of students at a given time at school facilities.
As we prepare for the 2020-2021 school year, we will continue to evaluate how to best meet the individual learning needs of all our students,” explained Cole.
“We want that framework there, to build capacity for our staff so we can provide support for any students who contract the coronavirus and have to be out for 14 days, or in case we have to shutdown again,” said Homan.
While Morgan County officials plan to reopen for the next school year, they are well aware that the school calendar could change at any time if the pandemic worsens in Morgan County.
“We may have to add weeks of digital learning days or even close down again,” said Homan. “It could change as the pandemic changes.”
Cole is urging teachers, students and staff to take the proper precautions to protect themselves and each other as school reopen in August.
“We are hopeful. And though hope isn’t necessarily a strategy, we are hopeful and prayerful that we can reopen and if everyone does what’s right, we can provide a safe learning environment for students this school year,” said Cole.