Madison County students are scheduled — as of Tuesday night — to return to in-person instruction Jan. 19. Meanwhile, the county school board agreed Tuesday to require masks in classrooms when social distancing is not possible.
The board approved the measure 5-0, agreeing that the requirement will be temporary, with the rule being revisited as the community COVID-19 situation improves. Board members voiced concern about the rising case numbers and the increasing health toll on people in the community, as well as the strain on local hospitals.
“We’re just in a different time,” said school board chairman Robert Hooper. “It’s hitting a lot closer to us. And I think we need to respond to it…We need to get our kids back and keep them as safe as possible.”
School board members said they also want to offer students breaks from masks in the classroom. Superintendent Michael Williams said that for a 50-minute class, that might include a 10-minute break and 20 minutes of break time for a 90-minute class. The logistics of the breaks will be worked out between Williams and the school administrators, but he said it may include having break time by rows. The intent is not to have all students with their masks off at once.
The board also plans to conduct a survey of school personnel to get their input on masks. That may happen later next week with the school leaders asking for input on the policy change implemented when students return.
Williams reported that as of Tuesday there were 31 staff members with COVID-19 with 59 quarantined. A COVID-19 report is released each Wednesday on the school board website: madison.k12.ga.us. There were 22 students and 27 staff members positive for COVID-19 as of Jan. 6.
The superintendent also reported that the school system conducted a survey to see how many school personnel members are interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available for the staff. Williams said 425 out of 748 staff members responded to the survey, with 54.6 respondents saying they want the vaccine. He said about 20 percent of the respondents said they are unsure if they want the vaccine.
“It’s probably going to be about half that would take it,” said Williams. “No date is set, but we are getting the paperwork and will pass that along to those who wish to sign up.”
Assistant superintendent Jody Goodroe reported that the number of students signed up for virtual instruction has dropped from 770 at the beginning of the year to 271 now, or about six percent of the school population.
Assistant superintendent Mandy Wommack reported that the school transportation and nutrition staffs have done an exemplary job getting meals to students during distance learning. She said 893 meals were delivered Monday.
The board agreed to extend emergency sick leave for school staff, which helps them not use up sick leave time for COVID quarantines. Federal money for that expired at the end of 2020, but the schools anticipate getting money for that.
Cindy Nash was re-elected by the BOE as the school board’s vice chairperson.
The board learned that “option 1” of the school calendar choices for 2021-22 had the majority of votes in a recent survey “by a slim margin.” The board will vote on the calendar at its next meeting.
The group approved the following personnel recommendations from the superintendent:
•Comer: hire Barrett Binder as an after school worker to replace B. Dougherty.
•Danielsville: hire Ashley Berryman as a parapro to replace R. Watson, replace W. Seagraves as a teacher with Merrye Davis, move Roxie Watson from a parapro to a teacher to replace M. Davis.
•Ila: approve Louise Cheek as a long-term substitute for C. Sapp, hire Jennifer Culberson as a paraprofessional, replacing J. Elrod.
•Transportation: hire Sarah Anderson as a full-time bus driver, hire Ashley Elliott as a full-time bus driver to replace J. Mills, hire Linda Wages as a bus monitor to replace K. Hilgeman.
•The board was informed of the resignation of Beth-Ann Dougherty as an after school worker at Comer, the resignation of Kristin Hilgeman as a bus monitor, the resignation of Janice Mills as a bus driver and the retirement of Wendy Seagraves as a teacher at Danielsville.