At its work session on Tuesday, Aug. 4, the Dawson County Board of Education discussed plans for going back to school on Friday and celebrated the school system being awarded a grant by the North Georgia Community Foundation.
During the meeting, Nicole LeCave, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, gave an update to the board members on how learning will work with the new school year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We currently have 10 percent of our student population choosing the online option, so we are expecting 90 percent of our students to come back to us on Friday,” LeCave said.
The school system has been working with students and parents to lay out guidelines for this online learning, which will be much more structured than the online learning in the spring semester earlier this year.
“For K-5 we’re going to be utilizing six of our teachers to teach our kids online and to try to mirror the in-person instruction as much as possible,” LeCave said. “We’ve met with these teachers and they’ll be meeting the kids on Friday online; our goal for Friday is for our online kids to have similar experiences as our kids in the buildings.”
Older students will have a slightly different online learning experience than younger ones, and theirs will also be more structured than it was in the spring.
“For our 6-12 we will be utilizing Edgenuity, which is a virtual online program that is self-paced and they will have virtual instructors,” LeCave said. “Our team has also worked with staff from middle school all the way to high school, and all of our students will have an online learning advisor so we’ll push all those guidelines out to our parents so they’ll know what’s expected of them.”
LeCave said that the staff has been working hard to do all they can to make the transition back to classes a smooth one for the in-person students as well as the online ones.
“We’re really working to make sure that our teachers are comfortable and that our students can come back to a school that is as normal as possible under the circumstances,” LeCave said. “But we’re excited and it’s wonderful to have all of them back.”
Hershel Bennett, assistant superintendent of human resources and operations, also gave an update on the new safety precautions that will be put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve made some transportation changes; we’re gonna load the bus back to front, social distance at the bus stops and when we can we’ll assign seats on the buses,” Bennett said. “For the first time ever you can sit with your sibling even if you’re not in the same grade, we’ll wipe down everything every day, hand sanitizer will be available on the buses and drivers will wear face masks or shields.”
There will also be several safety precautions taken inside the school buildings, according to Bennett.
“Glass shields will be up in the administration areas, counseling areas and nursing stations,” Bennett said. “Supplies won’t be shared in elementary schools, traffic flow patterns will be in the halls, lockers will be eliminated in the middle school and we’ll be placing more signs around in the classrooms and on the front doors.”
There will also be isolation rooms for students that exhibit symptoms of being sick, and new protocols will be put in place for calling parents if a student is running a temperature.
At the same meeting, Superintendent Damon Gibbs also reported to the board members that the Dawson County School System was recently awarded a grant by the North Georgia Community Foundation that the school can use to purchase more personal protection equipment (PPE) for both students and teachers.
“We got a real pleasant surprise this week that we actually received a $5,000 check from the North Georgia Community Foundation, and they’ve actually given us a grant for 2020 coronavirus relief so we can buy PPE and all the protective things for our schools,” Gibbs said. “And we’re very thankful for the foundation and for that grant; we’ll put that money to good use.”