Jefferson school leaders are gearing up to again have students in the classroom after months of shuttered doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Jefferson Board of Education got an update on the district’s reopening plans at its July 9 meeting.
Currently, the district plans to have students return to school July 31 and follow the previously approved 2020-21 calendar.
Superintendent Donna McMullan said school leaders have been working for weeks to develop a plan for the reopening of the district’s four schools.
“We have spent quite a bit of time researching, looking at best practices, the guidance from the Georgia Department of Education, so that we could devise a plan for reopening our schools,” said McMullan.
The district sent out a list of operational guidelines to the district’s families on July 10.
McMullan said the district’s individual schools have also put in additional measures. She also noted there’s a plan in place for students and staff members who are high-risk or have extenuating circumstances.
BOE chairman Ronnie Hopkins said the reopening plans were “well thought-out,” but noted the district’s plans could change as the system approaches the July 31 start date.
“…anything can change,” Hopkins said.
McMullan echoed that, noting the operational guidelines are fluid.
“We will have to continue to update those plans as we receive additional guidance,” said McMullan.
A finalized version will be sent out prior to July 31.
McMullan also thanked Jefferson families for their patience as many are trying to make preparations for the upcoming school year.
“We do appreciate the patience and understanding,” said McMullan. “This is a very difficult set of circumstances with many different factors to consider. Every individual family has different circumstances that have to be considered so when we put a plan in place, we are thinking about the safety and well-being of students.”
Highlights from the operational guidelines include:
• non-essential visitors, volunteers and activities involving outside organizations will be limited.
• students and staff are encouraged to do temperature checks prior to going to school. Those with a fever, COVID-19 symptoms, exposure in the previous 14 days or a positive COVID-19 test should stay home and report it to the school nurse. Those who develop symptoms at school will be isolated and sent home.
• students and staff are asked to adhere to health guidelines (hand washing, avoiding touching their face, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or elbow, etc.) and maintain social distancing.
• face masks or coverings are encouraged.
• walking patterns will be defined throughout the buildings.
• classrooms, technology, frequently touched surfaces and buses will be cleaned regularly. HVAC filters will also be monitored to “ensure proper operation and increased circulation of outdoor air as much as possible.”
• cafeteria release times will be limited.
• student desks will face the same direction and spaced apart when possible. Bus riders will also be spaced as much as possible (face coverings are encouraged for bus riders).
• the number of students allowed in one area will be limited during outdoor recess.
See the full list of operational guidelines on the district’s website.
In other business, the BOE approved:
•a spending resolution for the month of August.
•declaring several items surplus.
•purchasing 100 Chromebooks from Trinity 3 for $49,900.
•purchasing a GoGuardian subscription from Howard Technology Solutions for $23,900.
Also at its meeting, the BOE discussed:
•June SPLOST funds (May spending), which totaled $350,353. That’s up from last month and from the same time period in 2019. Hopkins noted the totals over the past couple of months have been surprisingly good despite the pandemic.
•a $3,000 from grant from the Athens Area Community Foundation in partnership with United Way of Northeast Georgia. The district will use the funding to purchase supplies and equipment needed to reopen schools amidst the pandemic.
•the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education program will have a monitoring and risk assessment review on Sept. 22. The review is required for the district to receive Perkins funds.
•state plans for the Georgia Milestones test in the upcoming school year. The state has asked the federal government to waive the testing requirement for another year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
•online registration, which opened June 25. Parents of out-of-district students will be required to participate in online training and out-of-district tuition is due July 24.
•new employee orientation, tentatively set July 24.
•start/dismissal times, including: Jefferson Elementary, 7:35 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Jefferson Academy, 7:25 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.; Jefferson Middle, 8:15 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.; and Jefferson High, 8:20 a.m. to 3:25 a.m. The board also discussed plans to stagger arrival/dismissal times.
•an update on access control equipment, set to be installed by the first day of school. The district is still waiting on delivery for the elementary, academy and middle schools.
•a bid to grade and gravel a portion of the field in front of the elementary school. The project could help alleviate traffic issues, since the district may have more car-riders this year. The space could also be used for high school parking overflow.