Georgia’s top government and educational leaders formed working groups last week to plan for reopening schools in the Fall as the federal government released long-awaited safety guidance. Locally, the Seminole County School System, as with Georgia’s other 179 school districts, will use the guidelines offered by the state to make its own decision about whether and how to reopen its school buildings – absent a mandate from Governor Brian Kemp.
According to Seminole County Superintendent of Schools Mark Earnest, Seminole County Schools, at this time, are proceeding with plans to open as scheduled on July 28th for teacher in-serve days. The first day of school for students will be on Wednesday, August 5th.
“All of this is contingent with the Governor’s Executive Order, and our plans have to remain fluid in this crisis, keeping safety for our students and staff as the top priority,” commented Earnest. School system officials will remain in constant contact with the Seminole County Health Department officials and will rely on their recommendation for safe reopening of all schools. In the meantime, Seminole County’s teachers and staff will continue to prepare for the reopening of school to students as normal on August 5.. Earnest also stated the school system, as a contingency plan for whatever happens, will be planning for some virtual classes that can be offered to students.
The Governor’s working groups will provide “expertise and perspective” for them in six areas: school meals, distance learning and teacher training, mental health and wellness, supplemental learning, facilities and busing, and access to the internet and computing devices.
That last category is led by Kemp advisor Jannine Miller, suggesting how crucial internet service is for K-12 education. Lack of access undermined learning for some students and teachers after schools closed and everything shifted online, and online learning will likely be a part of reopening plans.
The Georgia Department of Education has about $40 million in federal CARES Act funding that it can use to augment internet service in distressed areas, but Woods’ chief of staff, Matt Jones, said a broader solution for the whole state is needed.
The COVID-19 pandemic is spotlighting the problem and spurring concern at the highest levels, he said, adding that solutions would pay off long after the health crisis ends.