The Dawson County Board of Education has now given final approval of plans to reopen schools for the 2020-21 school year, laying the groundwork for the majority of students to return for in-person instruction in August with upgraded safety measures, but no mandate for teachers and students to wear masks.
At a specially called meeting of the Dawson County Board of Education on July 21, board members gave final approval to the reopening guidelines and released a finalized list of enhanced safety protocols for the reopening.
These protocols will include different hand sanitizing and social distancing measures, but do not require face masks for all but cafeteria workers and bus drivers.
“These protocols were developed based on the parent survey that we did in June and in the framework of the recommendations given to us by the Georgia Department of Health,” Nicole Lecave, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, said.
Currently, 233 students, or about 6% of the total student population, signed up for the online learning option in lieu of face-to-face classes. According to Superintendent Damon Gibbs, this number is in line with how many parents expressed interest in online learning via the school system’s survey in June, but the number could fluctuate before the school year starts.
“Just over 6 percent of our students are signed up to begin the school year online,” Gibbs said. “And we anticipate those numbers growing a little bit over the next week or two, but that’s not a problem at all and it’s something we’ve committed to offering this community.”
The students currently committed to online learning are spread out throughout the district rather than clumped all in one area or one school, according to Lecave.
“There are students represented at every grade level and at every school, so right now it’s pretty balanced that it’s not all at one school or all at one grade level,” Lecave said.
Parents still interested in having their children attend school online have been asked by the school system to make a commitment by July 24, so that the schools will then be able to plan accordingly based on the numbers.
“We’ve asked parents to commit by July 24,” Gibbs said. “We’ve been waiting to see what those numbers are so we can know how to best serve our students. We set a deadline so that we could develop our online teaching based on the numbers.”
The school board is expecting the numbers of face-to-face versus online students to fluctuate slightly after the school year starts, and the guidelines and protocols will also remain fluid depending on the state’s guidelines.
“If the current guidelines of the state change, we’ll have to change too,” Gibbs said. “We’re watching the data closely, and we’re trying to remain flexible and to react as we need to react as we move through the next weeks and months.”
The Board of Education unanimously approved the reopening guidelines as presented. The board also gave final approval for the 2020-21 school year budget as presented both at the meeting earlier in July and at the called meeting on July 21.