Blue Ridge, Ga. – Students of the Fannin County School System (FCSS) will have the option of returning to school in a modified traditional setting or utilizing online learning for the 2020-21 school year.
School Administration released their plans for reopening schools at the Board of Education (BOE) regular July meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Sarah Rigdon gave the board an overview of what to expect when school comes back into session.
The Georgia Department of Education (DOE) released guidelines in early June for schools to consider when reopening in the State of Georgia. These guidelines, however, were only recommendations and the ultimate decisions for school operations were left up to the districts.
The DOE guidelines, along with guidance from both local and state authorities, as well as guardian and faculty input helped shape the approach that the FCSS is choosing to implement for the time being.
“The important part for us was to get the information and make the best decisions that we can,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney spoke of the system’s plan. “This plan is subject to change. We need to think of this as a living document. It will be modified as new things are learned.”
Traditional school, or in person education will begin on August 7, 2020.
Faculty and Staff are to report on August 3, 2020.
Online Learning will also begin on August 7, 2020.
Parents and Guardians may enroll their child for Online Learning between July 10 – July 20, 2020.
For those not comfortable with the traditional in class setting, an online option will be available. Assistant Superintendent Rigdon stressed that this online option will not mirror the distance learning that the school put in place upon the mandatory closure earlier this year.
The online learning platform will be run through a 3rd party that is yet to be determined. The platform will provide instruction to the child with the parent or guardian being a “learning coach”.
Students enrolled in online learning will spend the majority of the traditional school day (8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.) either working online or working to complete assignments given online. Attendance will be taken and monitored via login and assignments completed.
There will be FCSS personnel assigned to check on each child’s progress. The “learning coaches” will be given the name of someone at the school who can help them navigate the program or assist with issues.
The content of the online learning platform, according to FCSS, will be “rigorous and graded”.
Students enrolled in Online Learning will be able to participate in sports and extracurricular activities.
While the FCSS is not requiring that students sign a contract to remain in the online platform once enrolled (many other districts have this requirement), they would like to see those enrolled stay with the program through the first semester or for the entirety of the school year.
“We are not asking parents to sign a commitment, but we do want them to be extremely thoughtful as they make that decision because it is going to require us to allocate and spend funds that could be better spent if they’re not going to stick with the program,” Rigdon explained of the need for students and guardians to consider the decision heavily.
Rigdon did add for those who enroll but discover that the online platform is not working for them, “We are never turning a child away from our schools.”
Students utilizing the Online Learning platform will complete assignments from a school issued device. FCSS will provide a WiFi hotspot for students without internet, but these hotspots work much like mobile phones, so if you are an area with poor cell phone service it is likely that the hotspot would not work for you.
Online Learning is available for children in grades Kindergarten – 12. This includes children with IEPs (Individualized Educational Program). Online Learning is not available for Pre-K students.
Masks are optional for both students and personnel. Parents or Guardians must provide a mask for students who wish to wear one throughout the day.
Temperatures will be taken for all students, staff, parents and guardians each morning upon arriving at the campus. Anyone with a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will not be permitted to stay at school.
Hand sanitizer will be available to all children and adults before entering the school buildings.
Elementary teachers will move the students instead of students changing classes. Middle and High School students will not be allowed to congregate in hallways. When and where possible class changes for Middle and High School students will be staggered or hallway traffic patterns will be addressed to prevent overcrowding.
When possible students will be assigned seats and will keep the same seat during the instructional class period.
Each school will “develop school level procedures” to limit the number of students in the cafeteria. This may include “grab and go” where students will pick up meals and eat in a classroom or designated area.
The final plan for buses has not been finalized. However, hand sanitizer will be available for anyone upon boarding a bus. Buses will be sanitized daily and ventilated to the extent feasible when in route.
Parents and guardians will be notified of any adjustments to bus routes or pick up times before the first day of school. Requirement to wear a mask while on a bus has not been decided, but parents and guardians will be notified of this decision as well.
Parents and guardians will be allowed to walk their child to class during the first few days of school but must wear a mask. Schools will determine when parents and guardians will no longer have access beyond the main entrance.
FCSS states “We want to keep the lines of communication strong, but we need to limit the number of people flowing into and out of the buildings each day.”
***If Schools Close Again***
Those students enrolled in Online Learning would continue the course that they are taking with no change. Students of the traditional classroom setting would switch to online learning but follow a model similar to that that was implemented in March 2020.
The FCSS states of the opening plan that “plans may change based on future orders from the Governor, the Department of Community Health, or the Department of Education”.
“Our desire is always to operate a traditional school with face to face,” Rigdon said of the hope for all students eventually to return to a traditional setting, “We believe our instruction is best at that level.”