September 15, 2020 Update:
The district will start a phased-in return to on-campus instruction beginning on Sept. 28 for students in Pre-K through 2nd grade. Third through 5th grade students will return on October 5.
Specific return dates for middle and high school students will be announced in the coming days.
The district has been conducting virtual-only instruction since classes started due to an unacceptably high number of COVID-19 cases in the county. District officials continuously monitor COVID-19 data for Dougherty County. According to Superintendent Dyer, pertinent data show key metrics used to determine a return to in-person learning trending in a favorable direction. “With the current low rate of community spread coupled with a positivity rate below six percent, our COVID-19 numbers have improved enough to warrant a return to in-person instruction,” Dyer said.
Due to reduced class-sizes in an effort to provide for adequate social distancing, students of parents who chose the in-person option on a survey the district conducted this summer, along with students who have certain special needs, will have first priority when transitioning back to the classroom. Parents who opted for their children to participate in virtual instruction on that survey can opt for in-person instruction but those assignments will be made if space is available. Parents who wish to keep their students in virtual instruction can do so.
Parents and students should expect school operations to look much different than they looked when they departed last spring. Social distancing, mask wearing, temperature checks, frequent cleaning and other safeguards will be in place.
JULY 2020 UPDATE: Students will start virtually according to the schedule below:
High School Students: August 17
Middle School Students: August 24
Elementary Students (Grades PK-5): August 31
To all of our parents and students, we know the last few months have caused anxiety and uncertainty about what next school year will look like. We know that you as families in the district need to know our plans as early as possible so that you can make the proper arrangements and decisions for your families.
Over the last few months we have been extensively planning. We’ve been working with peers across the state, coordinating with public health officials, and listening to medical professionals as we develop a plan that balances student safety with our mission to provide a quality education for every student in the Dougherty County School System. We’re also taking the valuable information that you’ve provided via our surveys and using it as we make calculated and deliberate decisions.
We’ve developed a plan that is based on various instructional models that will go into effect once the spread of the virus hits certain trigger levels that are set by the Department of Public Health.
If there’s no-to-low spread or minimal to moderate spread, we’ll have in-person instruction with a virtual option. Our schools will reopen with new social distancing requirements as well as requirements for employees, students and guests to use personal protective equipment while in specified areas of buildings. To better provide for the safety of our students, employees and guests, we’re implementing rigorous cleaning and sanitizing protocols.
For those students who’ll be participating in in-person instruction, we’re currently in the process of securing masks, face shields, desk shields. Hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the buildings. Additionally, new signage to support social distancing, in addition to a wide array of other measures, are being taken to keep our students and employees safe.
We also understand that, no matter the plan or the safety measures that are put into place, you as parents and students have to feel comfortable with the school environment, that’s why we’re providing a virtual option. For those who choose the virtual instructional model, a minimum commitment of at least nine weeks is required. (Students may only return to in-person instruction if classroom capacity allows.)
If there’s substantial spread of the virus, we will shift into a virtual-only model similar to what we did in the Spring, but in a more deliberate and robust way. Unlike this past Spring, with the virtual model all DCSS instructional accountability policies, including attendance and grades, will be adhered to.
As a reminder, the first day of school is Aug. 3; but, events like open house will look extremely different from previous years. We may also start with one plan and pivot to another depending on how the virus spreads. We urge all parents and stakeholders to pay close attention to district announcements and prepare for a school year that will be different from previous ones.
Regardless of the model or scenario, the district is committed to provide a rigorous and relevant academic experience for our students, while continuing to provide for their nonacademic needs as well.
Our goal is to be agile, flexible and prepared to make a shift as soon as we know conditions are changing. We ask that you work with us to make these changes as smooth as possible and that you stay connected so that we can keep you informed every step of the way.
You should expect to receive more detailed information next week about open house events, transportation, and school meal service. As more information becomes available, we will share it through all of our notification channels so please make sure to follow us on social media and to keep your contact information updated in Infinite Campus.
We’re eager to re-connect and re-engage with our students and families. We’re excited for the start of the 2021 school year and we hope you are too!