TCSS to offer traditional and online instruction, moves start date for students to Aug. 17
The Troup County School System will give parents and students two options for the return to school — in-person learning and online learning — and will move the start date for students back one week.
During Monday night’s work session, the school system went over the options for back to school, including moving the start date for students back to Aug. 17. Students will get the opportunity to either take part in a traditional program, meaning five-day-a-week in-person school, or the Troup County Virtual Academy, which is an online-only program.
Monday’s meeting was Superintendent Dr. Brian Shumate’s opportunity to present the plan to the board and to the public, and the final plan is expected to be released on Wednesday. The board will vote on it Thursday.
Once the plan is finalized on Thursday, parents will begin on Friday selecting whichever option they want — traditional learning or virtual learning. Shumate said parents will have one week to select whichever option they want.
Shumate said the one week later start date will allow staff members, who will still start on Aug. 4, a chance to get familiarized with the virtual learning system.
Shumate said TCSS will highly recommend masks or face coverings be worn by students, but they will not be required in school buildings. Masks will be required on school buses and the windows will remain open to circulate air. Every student will be given a cloth mask on the first day of school, and students and parents will be asked to keep up with that mask and clean it.
The school system unveiled community and staff survey results during Monday’s meeting, which were used to create the plan.
There were 5,698 respondents to the community survey, and 68.8 percent wanted students to go to school in the fall. A majority of respondents, or 47.4 percent, preferred learning to be face-to-face, while 22.5 percent wanted hybrid leaning, meaning some mix of learning at school and at home. TCSS is not offering a hybrid model after considering it early on.
About a fourth of respondents with a student at TCSS, or 23.9 percent, preferred all at home learning. Just over 5 percent of respondents did not have a student at TCSS.
Yolanda Stephen, public relations director for TCSS, said community survey responses allowed TCSS to get more specific for the staff survey. A total of 68.6 percent of employees said they preferred students to do learning at school, while 31.4 percent preferred learning at home.
Eighty-one percent of both students and staff members said they have reliable internet service at home.
The virtual learning programs will include synchronous and asynchronous programs for students. Synchronous means the activity will occur at a specific time, and asynchronous means not happening all at the same time.
For example, students in the virtual middle school or high school program will have a core class that they take each day Monday-Thursday with a synchronous schedule. Electives will be on Friday. Students will be required to attend to meet attendance requirements.
Specifically, those synchronous core classes will be the following: social studies (Monday), math (Tuesday), English Language Arts (Wednesday), Science (Thursday) and electives (Friday).
Students will also have asynchronous assignments throughout the week that will be required.
For elementary school students, there will be morning (9 to 11 a.m.) and afternoon (1 to 3 p.m.) times for synchronous programs. Asynchronous assignments will also be assigned throughout the week.
High school students would be enrolled in virtual learning for a semester while middle school and elementary school students would be enrolled for nine weeks. Any student who wanted to go from in-person to virtual could make that change at any time, but not vice versa, as Shumate said it would be a scheduling issue.
Shumate also said all teachers will need to be prepared in case of a need to move everyone to virtual learning. The school system is going to distribute Chromebooks for third through twelfth graders and purchase Chromebooks for students in kindergarten through second grade.
The school system also discussed how it would handle a positive case of COVID-19 in the school system.
First, if a student or staff member was experiencing COVID symptoms, that person would be quarantined in the nursing station, which will serve as an isolation room. TCSS will close areas used by the sick person and cleaning and disinfecting will begin after 24 hours.
Students, staff members and parents who had direct contact with the positive case individual will be asked to stay home.
The positive COVID staff member or student must follow CDC guidelines of isolation for 14 days.
Anyone in direct contact would have to quarantine for 10 days.
“If we have a few two to four cases in a room, we’re probably shut down the whole class, or the pod,” Shumate said. “If we get five or more cases in a particular concentrated area, we could shut down that whole wing and or the whole school.”
Shumate said those decisions will be made as quick as possible as each situation develops.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Penny Johnson said they are looking at ways to have a nurse at every school. Shumate said they have added five nursing positions that they are working through hiring now.
Students will also have to walk through body temperature detectors as they enter the school building. The scanners, which were purchased last month, will check the temperatures of 70 students per minute.
The school system also went over the measures it takes via air quality and daily custodial practices to ensure a clean school and classroom for students. Those included air filters with a minimum Merv 8 rating, heating and A/C units that are consistently serviced for safe ventilation and daily cleaning of high touch services.
On buses, the distances between students seated on the bus will be increased. Hand sanitizer will be provided as students board and each bus will be wiped down after each route.
For food services, tables will be sanitized prior to a student’s meal and after a student group leaves the area. The breakfast and lunch options may be modified a little for easier transportation back and forth to the cafeteria. TCSS has also considered serving meals in the classrooms.