Back Together – Still Apart

Staff Written News

Morgan County Schools open their doors for the 2020-21 school year

By Patrick Yost

editor 

When Morgan County School students left school on a Friday last March, they thought they’d return the following Monday. But it would 147 days before students when return to the halls of Morgan County schools. With nearly 3,000 students returning to Morgan County schools last week, the four principals at each school said things went surprisingly well given an added traffic count and the schools battling with social distancing because of COVID-19.

“We had a great first couple of days,” said Morgan County Primary School Principal James Wyatt. “The biggest change for the first day of school was not having the parents walk the children into school.”

“I think I only saw one parent crying,” Wyatt joked.

The principals delivered their “back to school” report to the Morgan County Board of Education Monday at its monthly August meeting. Morgan County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Virgil Cole told the board prior to the report that “everybody I’ve seen has been positive. There has been a lot of work behind the scenes.”

Morgan County Elementary School Principal Linda Smith told the board that “the kids are really, really happy.” Smith said approximately 90 percent of the students came to the school wearing masks. For students without a mask the school supplies them but, Smith said, that has been a limited problem. Students, she said, had decorated and added personal designs to their masks. “They want to wear their own.”

She also said that instructors not only initiating lesson plans but are also preparing the students if in-person school is suspended because of the coronavirus. “Right now the teachers are training the kids what to do fi we have go virtual.”

According to Susan Tolbert, assistant superintendent, Morgan County Charter School, approximately 16 percent of the school system’s total enrollment has opted to learn virtually, which amounts to about 550 students across all four of Morgan County’s schools.

For Morgan County Middle School Principal Hillary Meeler, having students enter the new Morgan County Middle School was a chance to “finally hear and see our new building come to life.”

Meeler said school staff have had to “pivot when we need to” to address the challenges of teaching during a pandemic. “We all have to do more… but everyone has risen to that challenge.”

Morgan County High School Principal Dr. Miki Edwards said for the first time the high school admitted more than 1,000 students with 1,016 on opening day. The high school has mandated mask wearing and instituted a “zone” system,” Edwards said. “The compliance has been outstanding.”

Board of Education Chairman Nelson Hale said precautions are “vitally important for in person learning. The students will do so much better with face-to-face learning.”

Top school officials believe reopening schools was vital to the community. 

““We strongly believe that our schools are an important part of the infrastructure of the Morgan County community, and we have worked diligently over the past few months to create a plan that would allow us the opportunity to re-open schools safely,’ said Jay Homan, assistant superintendent of Morgan County Schools. “It was amazing to see the excitement from students, staff, and parents as we returned to school last week. We will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and collaborate with the Georgia Department of Public Health and our local medical professionals as we progress throughout this school year.”

Superintendent Cole is uplifted by how Morgan County Schools smoothly reopened last week. 

“It has been a wonderful start of the school year,” said Cole.  “As I have visited our schools, I have been very impressed with the positive energy, teamwork and professionalism exhibited by our staff as well as the awesome attitude of our students to comply with the safety protocols.  It was inspiring to see.  Obviously, we are taking it day by day; however, I am very appreciative of the countless hours of preparation to get to this point.”

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