School System issues survey to solicit reopening comments from parents

As reported last week, Seminole County Superintendent of Schools Mark Earnest, said 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. 

To gain the thoughts of Seminole County parents and those offering an opinion, the Seminole County School system has released a survey and is requesting participation from the parents of every single Seminole County student. Earnest commented, “We want to encourage all parents to complete the following survey to help our administrative staff plan for the upcoming school year. We want to know how our parents feel about sending their students back to school amid the COVID 19 pandemic. Also, we want to know where our community households stand with internet connectivity and the availability of devices —laptops, computers, and Chromebooks. This survey will help us identify the needs and fears of our parents. We appreciate the participation of our parents.”

The survey’s requests are as follows. 

What start date for the 2020-2021 School Year would you support? August 5, Mid-August, after Labor Day which is September 7, or I would support any of these start dates.

I have internet access through internet service at home, internet service through my cell phone, internet service through a relative’s home, internet service through a public place (example: Hardee’s, Public Library, etc.) or I have no internet service access at all.

I have a device that my student can adequately complete his/her school work on in my house. Yes, No or Maybe.

The Seminole County School System shares information in various ways. Do you feel you are able to receive or find the information you needed in a timely manner? Yes or No.

What was the greatest impact for your family regarding schools closing and going to distance learning in the fourth nine weeks of school? 

Regarding the start of the 2020-2021 School Year, I prefer to allow my student to return to face-to-face learning, a combination of face-to-face and virtual learning, or only virtual learning for my student.

I have childcare for my student(s) if there is virtual learning or a combination of face-to-face and virtual learning. Yes or no.

Can you receive texts to your cell or home phone number? Yes or no

The survey was emailed to all parents and can be accesson the Board of Education’s website and at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfciOGoHJ08xcncn3uCD9b3m4W7PXDABz5xl-uhW9O-mRKA1w/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1

School leaders across Georgia say new state guidelines for reopening schools will help them plan for the Fall, but the guidance makes clear that each district will make its own decision for when and how students return to class.

School reopening recommendations in a 10-page document, “Georgia’s Path to Recovery for K-12 Schools,” were written by the state education and public health departments. The document, released Monday, is the first official statewide advisory for educators responsible for Georgia’s nearly two million K-12 public school students next school year.

It offers a range of options that allow local officials to react to changing local conditions, from the low to the substantial spread of COVID-19.

It is a helpful resource, said Steve Smith, superintendent of the Bleckley County School District south of Macon, but he said it is missing one thing he needs to know: “What constitutes a major outbreak and what constitutes a medium outbreak?”

The state’s 180 school districts operate independently under the Georgia Constitution and, absent an emergency mandate from Gov. Brian Kemp, will decide whether and how to open their buildings this Fall — and when to close them — should conditions warrant.

That is why the new guidance is not mandatory. School superintendents will have to tap local and state health officials to help determine their relative Coronavirus risk. The virus will spread at different rates in different regions, said Matt Jones, chief of staff for state schools Superintendent Richard Woods.

“What could work in one county might not work in another,” he said, adding that state health officials are expected to develop more clarity around how to determine local conditions. Also, a 72-member state panel is expected to elaborate on the parts of the guidance that raise a lot of questions.

The core of the document is a decision tree of possible actions with options for Fall and the rest of the school year ranging from slightly modified traditional schooling in the best case, to closed buildings, like this past Spring semester, in the worst.

In the middle are a variety of options, including so-called “hybrid” models that maximize social distancing by minimizing the number of students in buildings at one time. Those models include allowing groups of students to attend on alternating days or weeks, as well as allowing only younger students to attend while older students learn at home.

Those could be so tricky to implement that the state is recommending them only “if absolutely necessary.”

Districts that find the hybrid option logistics too challenging could still hold classes in person. Advice for them includes keeping students’ desks away from teachers; using gyms, auditoriums and other large spaces where possible; staggering bell schedules to cut down on hallway congestion; and holding classes outdoors if the weather cooperates.

Careful planning could be undermined by any COVID-19 cases in the schools. The guidance recommends closing areas where an infected person has been, and keeping them closed for 24 hours before cleaning and disinfection, which would temporarily reduce capacity.

In even the best scenario, school would not look normal. The state is recommending that hallways be divided into travel lanes to minimize mixing, that schools help health officials with contact tracing and “specimen collection” and that signs be placed throughout buildings advising about hygiene and other safety protocols, such as staying home if sick.

Read the full report at https://www.georgiainsights.com/recovery.html.

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