Madison County School System leaders released the following question-and-answer document about the start of the 2020-21 school year:
As parents and guardians face important decisions regarding their student’s education in relation to COVID-19, we understand there are many questions of how Madison County Charter School System will address various issues. We have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions and will continue to update as situations change and as new concerns arise.
Responses are based on the current COVID-19 situation, the district’s currently published plans for reopening on August 14th (subject to change), and guidance from state and local leaders and health officials, including the Department of Public Health. As we continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and receive updated guidance from state leaders and health officials, we will promptly communicate any updated plans.
These FAQs have been divided into three categories:
•Process for Preventing the Spread of COVID-19
•Process If/When COVID-19 Affects the School Community
•Process After COVID-19
Processes for Preventing the Spread of COVID-19
How will you implement social distancing in classrooms?
Schools will take steps to maximize social distancing to the extent possible given space constraints.
•Students will be taught procedures and expectations for how to maintain a reasonable space between themselves and others in the classrooms, hallways, restrooms, and other locations throughout the school.
•Classrooms will be arranged so students are facing the same direction and are separated to the extent possible.
•Elementary schools will limit interactions between students from different grades.
•Teachers will not have “partners” or “groups” in close proximity, and will leverage virtual tools for student collaboration where possible.
•Traffic-flow will be one way in hallways and/or stairwells.
What procedures are in place for morning arrival and afternoon dismissal?
Schools are developing plans to maintain social distance to the extent possible during arrival and dismissal. While strategies will vary by school, these are some common strategies and procedures that schools will use:
•Spread students out in gyms and other locations as needed to maintain social distance during arrival.
•Follow social distancing procedures that will be in place during lunch for breakfast.
•Students may remain in their classrooms during car-riders to limit interaction in the hallways.
•As students arrive, they will move directly to their advisement class.
•If they are eating breakfast, they can pick this up on the way to class in their House.
•Students who are bus riders and arrive before 7:25 will report to the cafeteria.
•A bell will ring at 7:25 for all students to go first period.
•Students who arrive after the 7:25 bell will grab breakfast and go to first period.
What procedures are in place for breakfast and lunch?
Each school is developing a plan customized to their building space to allow for social distancing.
•Students will be permitted to eat their breakfast and lunch in additional spaces in the building, classroom or outside.
•There will be no self-serve lines for students, and students will not have to “key in” their lunch numbers. Scanners for barcodes will be utilized by cafeteria staff.
•All food items will be individually packaged or wrapped. Silverware will be wrapped.
•Barcodes will be scanned instead of touching a key-pad. For younger children, school nutrition staff will take care of this entire process.
•School Nutrition staff will also follow all appropriate and enhanced safety guidelines when serving students.
What about classrooms that have tables and not desks?
Classroom spaces will be arranged to allow for social distancing to the maximum extent possible. Students seated at the same table will be limited and plexiglass barriers/guards will be used when necessary to separate students so that they will be allowed to remove masks and face coverings while in the classroom.
What about social distancing on the bus?
Masks will be required on the bus when social distancing is not possible. With some students opting to learn digitally, and some parents electing to transport their children, it is likely that there will be a reduction in students on the bus. Precautions will be taken to lessen the risk for bus riders and drivers.
EXAMPLE: When there are few riders, if social distancing can be maintained, students may not have to wear a mask. As the bus becomes more crowded, the driver will instruct students to wear their masks.
Are masks required?
The Madison County Charter School System’s Return to School Guidelines state that masks are expected to be worn when social distancing is not possible.
When will students have to wear a mask?
Students will be required to wear a mask when staff determines that a reasonable distance between students cannot be maintained. To the extent possible, staff will work to arrange classrooms to maximize social distancing, and masks would not be required when a reasonable distance can be maintained. Regardless of age, staff will work to provide spaces and times throughout the day when students can social distance and remove their masks.
EXAMPLE : Students will be required to wear a mask on the bus, in the hallways during transitions, and in small classrooms where social distancing is not possible.
Will adults have to wear masks?
Yes - Adults will wear masks following the same guidelines as students. Masks may be removed when social distancing can be maintained.
EXAMPLE : When a teacher is instructing from the front of a classroom and is six feet or more away from students, the teacher can remove the mask if he/she feels comfortable doing so.
Are visitors required to wear a mask?
Non-essential visitors to school buildings will be limited. Any visitor who enters the building will be required to submit to a temperature check and wear a mask. Any visitors who refuse to wear a mask will not be admitted to school buildings.
What kind of masks and face coverings are acceptable?
Acceptable masks/face coverings include disposable face masks, cloth masks that are washable and reusable, “Neck Gaiters,” which are worn around the neck and can be pulled up to cover the mouth and nose. The use of bandanas as face coverings is discouraged at the elementary level, and is a violation of the dress code at the middle and high school levels.
Masks and face coverings should be functional. Students can choose patterns and colors based on their preferences, however face coverings with slogans or messages that violate the dress code or could cause a disruption to the learning environment will not be permitted.
Parents of younger children are encouraged to mark the mask with student names/initials.
Are masks effective?
While there are many opinions regarding the effectiveness of face coverings, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites emerging evidence in their recommendations for face coverings to be worn when social distancing cannot be maintained. Please see their guidance here:
Any questions or concerns regarding masks that are specific to your child or circumstances should be directed to your child’s principal.
Who will enforce the wearing of masks?
All school staff will expect students and any visitors who enter the building to comply with our reopening guidelines. Our goal is to keep all students, staff, and our school community safe and healthy. We will do everything possible to avoid having a safety procedure become a discipline issue.
What if students don’t comply with procedures for masks or social distancing?
If students refuse to comply with procedures, teachers will have those students leave the classroom and report to an administor. Administrators will work with students and families to resolve the issue.
What type of mask will the district provide to students?
The district will provide at least one mask per student. It is likely that many students and families will want more than one mask, and you are welcome to provide masks and face coverings of your choice. Guidelines regarding what is acceptable are outlined above. If you have any questions about acceptable masks, please contact your child’s principal.
Will students be taught how to properly wear masks or procedures for hand washing?
Yes, all schools will work with their school nurse to teach students about how to properly use their masks and face coverings, as well as routines for proper hand washing.
How will cleaning and disinfection be enhanced within the school system?
Specific and rigorous measures are in place to ensure the safety of students and staff members.
•Classrooms will be cleaned daily. High touch areas will be cleaned throughout the day.
•Classrooms will be sanitized (E-Misting) every other evening with electronic sanitation devices by our custodial service, ABM.
•ABM has increased their staff to handle the day-to-day measures of cleaning with an approved virucide.
•Classrooms will have a hand sanitizer station.
•Nurses will instruct staff and students on proper handwashing and hygiene techniques.
•Teachers will have supplies to disinfect high traffic areas.
Will temperature checks be required?
Schools will have the means to take temperatures of students, staff and visitors. Staff and students are encouraged to self-check prior to coming to school. Those who would like to self-check upon arrival or during the day will be able to do so.
What if someone has a temperature?
Anyone with a temperature above 100.3 will be isolated and required to leave the building as quickly as possible.
How will the school increase air flow?
The vast majority of our HVAC systems have been recently renovated, and include ion filtration systems. We are in the process of continuing to renovate HVAC systems. Our HVAC systems also pull in a percentage of outside air — so air is not just “recirculated” in the classrooms.
Outside air does come in. HVAC systems are routinely serviced by in-house professionals.
Will students be sharing supplies or spaces?
To the extent possible, students will not share supplies or be grouped in common spaces (example: working closely in small groups or stations). When required supplies are limited, items will be properly disinfected. Each school will develop procedures for the use of shared spaces (i.e. media center, gym) that comply with our Madison County Reopening Guidelines, as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to the extent possible.
Will students be allowed to sing and play instruments in band and chorus classes?
At this time, all band and chorus students will practice appropriate social distancing. These classes will take advantage of larger spaces to practice. These classes will also take advantage of outside spaces when available. All students will face the same direction and wear masks when appropriate.
Will outside visitors be allowed to enter the building?
Non-essential visitors will not be allowed to enter the building. Visitors with an essential need to visit will submit to a temperature check and must wear a mask.
EXAMPLE: A parent who is attending a scheduled conference would be allowed to enter the building. Front office staff will ensure that the parent’s temperature is checked and the parent will be asked to wear a mask or face covering.
What about mentors?
At this time, only employees of the Madison County Charter School System who serve as mentors will be allowed to visit schools. We will continue to monitor and evaluate.
What about student teachers?
We are placing student teachers on a limited basis. This is part of our duty to the profession and a way for us to recruit potential employees. Administrators and the Human Resources Department are working in conjunction to ensure that placements are made in classrooms where the teacher feels comfortable having an additional adult. Student teachers are also receiving information regarding our reopening guidelines and the importance of practicing prevention measures even when they are outside of our buildings. Student teachers will follow the same guidelines as all other staff members.
Will I be able to come to the school to eat breakfast or lunch with my child?
At this time, we are not allowing outside visitors for lunch or breakfast. This is to protect all students and staff. We hope to welcome our families as soon as conditions allow.
Will there still be an After-School Program (ASP) in elementary schools?
Yes, the After-School Program will still operate and will follow the Madison County Charter
School System’s Guidelines for Reopening.
What does “staggered recess” mean?
Elementary schools are developing recess plans that will limit the number of students in one area at a time. All children in elementary school will still have recess.
EXAMPLE: Kindergarten classes who normally all have recess on the same playground at the same time would stagger their schedules so that one class goes out at a time or so that the three classes use different playgrounds or outside areas.
For self-contained special education students who cannot or will not wear a mask or maintain social distance, what will you do?
We will address the needs of our students with disabilities on an individual basis. Case managers and the Special Education Director will work closely with administrators to develop accommodation plans as needed that protect the health and safety of all students.
Will teachers have the supplies that they need to disinfect their rooms and materials?
We are committed to ensuring that our schools have the supplies that they need to keep students and staff safe. Additional custodial staff will be in place to wipe down high traffic areas and high touch surfaces throughout the day. All classrooms will be disinfected daily and every other day using an electronic sanitation device. Hand sanitizing stations are being installed in all classrooms and on buses. Administrators and district staff are working to ensure teachers have the supplies needed to wipe down classroom surfaces routinely throughout the day.
What is the system doing to address the high levels of anxiety that some staff and students may have as schools reopen?
Administrators and counselors are working closely with Tara Thomas, our Wrap-Around Mental Health Coordinator, to enhance mental health initiatives already in place. All schools are reviewing and improving current plans for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). Staff members have access to information and presentations on self-care through our district and to mental health services through the Employee Assistance Program.
If you have specific concerns about how COVID-19 or reopening school is affecting your child, please contact the counselor at your school.
Will schools still be able to have emergency preparedness drills?
Yes, we have received guidance on conducting drills following social distancing measures.
What if there is an actual emergency?
In an actual emergency situation, administrators will focus on taking appropriate actions to keep students safe, as dictated by the situation. Students will have their masks and face coverings to use in the event that social distancing cannot be maintained during an emergency.
What if I do not feel comfortable sending my child to school this fall?
The Madison County Charter School System is offering an online option to in-person instruction.
Process If / When COVID-19 Affects the School Community
What happens if a student or staff member becomes sick at school?
•Staff members exhibiting symptoms will be instructed to go home.
•Students exhibiting symptoms will be taken to the school nurse for proper care and isolation from others. Parents will be notified immediately to pick up the student.
•Students in the classroom of the sick staff or student will be moved to another location.
•Custodial staff will disinfect the impacted areas using an electronic sanitation device.
Will parents be notified if someone in the school tests positive for COVID?
The Madison County Charter School System is only required to notify the Local Health Department of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. The school district is not required to provide contact tracing. To respect and protect the privacy of the individual, administrators will notify only the necessary staff of a confirmed positive case. Administrators will send notification to the parents of students in close contact with the affected individual. No information identifying the student will be shared.
EXAMPLE: 1st grade student tests positive. Administrator notifies the necessary staff that a student has tested positive. Parents of students in that 1st grade classroom will be notified.
EXAMPLE: 9th grade student tests positive. Administrator notifies the necessary staff that a student has tested positive. Parents of students in class/extracurricular activities with the student will be notified.
EXAMPLE: A staff member tests positive. Administrator notifies the necessary staff that a staff member has tested positive. Parents of any students who have been in close contact with that staff member will be notified. Any staff members who have been in close contact with that staff member will be notified.
What number of confirmed COVID-19 cases will require a school/school system to close?
There is no definitive threshold or “magic number” to require a school to temporarily close.
School officials will work closely with the Local Health Department and the Georgia Department of Public Health to continually monitor and assess the situation to determine what is in the best interest of students, staff, and the community.
If one school has to close, do all schools in the district close?
School officials will work closely with the Local Health Department to determine if one or multiple schools need to close due to confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. If a school closure is necessary, procedures are in place for teachers and students to transition to remote learning.
Who makes the decision about when to close schools?
The school system will work in collaboration with the Local Health Department and other officials. Ultimately, this decision is made by the Superintendent and the Madison County Board of Education, unless there is a state-wide decision to close schools.
What happens with instruction if school has to close?
Madison County Charter School System is committed to ensuring that quality teaching and learning continue while students are at home. As teachers return for the 2020-2021 school year, they will be trained in effective distance learning practices, and the system will be providing devices (including Chromebooks and iPads) to students. If schools close, the system will implement a distance learning model for students where they receive instruction from teachers at their school. While similar to last spring, the model offers key improvements focused on greater connections, engagement, and best practices for distance learning. There will be more rigor, more accountability, and more support. The number of online platforms has been streamlined, with ClassLink used as the single sign-on for district software applications and Canvas used for instruction and communication. Instructional delivery will include such strategies as live, virtual instruction, interactive videos and independent work. Students will follow a predetermined school schedule, and grading practices will be consistent and recorded.
Will fall sports be played?
School officials will follow all recommendations and guidelines set forth by the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). If schools close, extracurricular activities would also be canceled.
What is the definition of “close contact”?
The CDC website ( https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html ) lists the following criteria as “close contact”:
•You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes
•You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
•You had direct physical contact with the person (touched, hugged, or kissed them)
•You shared eating or drinking utensils
•They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you
How will time off be handled if a teacher/staff member gets infected with COVID?
Madison County School System has a procedure in place that follows the current guidelines established by the Department of Labor for leave due to COVID related issues.
•If an employee has an issue potentially related to COVID, the employee should notify their administrator/supervisor who will then notify the Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations and Human Resources Director.
•The employee will be sent the necessary documents to complete.
•Once submitted, the documents will be reviewed to determine if the issue meets the eligibility criteria set for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and/or Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA).
•If the issue meets the eligibility criteria, then the required time away from work will be processed under the FFCRA / EPSLA leave, and not processed as personal/sick days.
If teachers are out due to COVID, who will be teaching the classes?
We have a list of district-approved substitute teachers who will be contacted. If schools are unable to find approved substitute teachers, administrators will work within the building, and with the help of district personnel if necessary, to ensure that classes are covered.
Process After COVID-19
If my child is sick with COVID, will he/she be expected to do make-up work at home?
We will follow our standard procedures. When students are out sick, they are not expected to complete work at home, but many students can and do complete work while sick. If students are quarantined but feel well enough to do work, they are encouraged to keep up from home to the extent possible. With our new Canvas system for blended learning, students will be able to see content posted by their teachers even if they are at home. When students return to school, teachers will work with them to complete required make-up work.
Will my child have more time to complete make-up work if he/she is out for an extended time?
Schools will work with individual students and families to develop a plan for make-up work.
What if students do not complete the work that is assigned to them?
Teachers will work with students to provide every opportunity for them to make up work and continue their learning progress. As with all assignments, those that are not completed will eventually be recorded as missing or not completed.