Madison County students are scheduled to return to class Aug. 7 — and they’ll wear masks in classrooms and most school settings.
“The expectation is that staff and students will wear a mask in every classroom,” said superintendent Michael Williams.
The county school system has released its “returning to school guidelines” for the upcoming school year. Those guidelines were posted Monday on the school website madison.k12.ga.us.
The guidelines state that “masks are expected to be worn when social distancing is not possible.” Williams offered some additional information Monday on when that is expected.
“Masks are expected to be worn,” he said. “We will work to have as much space as possible in class to provide social distancing. Yes, there may be times when classes are set up when social distancing is adequate. Here is an example: Students may not have to wear a mask if they are outside spaced out — P.E. class, for example. Some of our CTAE courses may have enough space in lab areas — individual lab stations, welding, for example.”
The State of Georgia released a planned tier system for separating school systems into three classifications: low/no spread of coronavirus, moderate spread and high spread.
Williams said there has yet to be any clarity offered from state officials to local governments about the criteria for determining the tier classification for each system.
But the superintendent said local school leaders have been working hard to prepare for various scenarios.
“We haven’t rushed and I know a lot of people have been wondering about that, but it has been ever-changing,” he said. “We didn’t want to put something out so early and then have to backtrack. And we’re still a month away and a lot can change in a month.”
Williams said the aim is to give every student the attention they need to make the return go as smoothly as possible.
“Each kid is going to be different in regards to their return to school, and we want to be as flexible as we can be and meet those needs,” he said. “We’re talking about gifted students, special ed students, regular ed students, students with asthma. We ask that if folks have questions, they give us a call.”
Williams said the health and welfare of students and faculty is paramount. Standardized tests and attendance awards won’t be emphasized this year.
“Priorities are most definitely shifted,” he said. “We’re not worried about CCRPI, or end-of-the-year assessments.”
Williams said finding substitute teachers will be a challenge this year.
“The substitute teacher issue will be tough,” he said. “We were already struggling with substitutes. That list of substitutes might be decreased, because they don’t want to come into the school. But we’re going to take it day by day and work to provide the best possible education with safety in mind. And having gone through what we did in March, if we have to close down or distance learn, we’ll be better prepared, our teachers will be, we’ve been working on steps to ensure it will be.”
The superintendent said the long layoff has been hard on everyone.
“I think people are eager to get back,” he said. “I appreciate the patience and the understanding during this time. Know that we’re going to do the best we can to protect students and provide an excellent education.”
THE SAFETY GUIDELINES
This week, leaders released guidelines for the start of school, which can be found on the school website.
Here they are:
•All students and employees must stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19, or have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Local health officials will be immediately notified for guidance on next steps.
•Employees and parents/guardians (on behalf of students) will be asked to self report to the school nurse or principal if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Employees and students with temperatures at or above the CDC recommendations (100.4) will be immediately isolated and not allowed to remain at school.
•The school nurse at every school will be designated as the building's COVID-19 point of contact to assist with operations, communications, and health-related issues within the school.
•Staff, students and parents are agreeing that by virtue of coming to school, they do not have a fever above 100.3 and do not have any symptoms of illness. Temperatures will be taken on an as-needed basis.
•Those who become sick, exhibit symptoms or have a fever of 100.4 or higher at school or work will be sent home immediately.
•Updated emergency contact information must be on file at the school.
•All schools will have a room to isolate symptomatic persons.
•Social distancing will be practiced when possible.
•School buildings will contain specific signage, and classroom spaces will be reconfigured to help with social distancing.
•Recess and other non-structured student events will be staggered to reduce the number of individuals in an area.
•Non-essential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations will be limited.
•Quarantined students will have access to their education through the digital learning platform “CANVAS” to access virtual learning.
•All attendance rewards (perfect attendance, attendance field trip, and any other attendance incentives) will be placed on hold for the 2020-21 school year.
If a Madison County Charter School System employee or student has a confirmed case of COVID-19, the district will follow the Georgia Department of Public Health's guidelines for returning to work/school safely. The district will also work to notify those who may have been in close contact with the individual in a timely manner.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
•School buildings and facilities will be thoroughly cleaned on a daily basis.
•Traditional water fountains will be closed. Students and staff are encouraged to bring water from home and will be allowed to refill them periodically throughout the day.
•High-touch surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected more frequently throughout the day.
•Approved sanitation cleaners will be available in classrooms.
•Frequent hand washing will be encouraged and scheduled throughout the day.
•School employees will teach and reinforce healthy hygiene practices. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout each building and in each classroom.
•Students are encouraged to bring their own personal size hand sanitizer for use on the bus and during the school day.
•Masks will be provided, however students and staff may bring their own mask from home.
•Masks are expected to be worn when social distancing is not possible.
•Each school will serve meals in the classroom, in the cafeteria, or outside with a reduced number of students.
•No self-serve lines will be available for middle and high school students.
•School nutrition staff will follow appropriate and enhanced safety guidelines when serving students.
•Bar codes will be scanned to eliminate the use of common use keys pads.
•Buses will be cleaned and disinfected daily and as needed between routes.
•Bus drivers will have hand sanitizer available.
•Students and staff are expected to wear masks on the bus.
•Parents are encouraged to transport their child to and from school when possible.
•Parents/guardians will not be allowed to walk their children to class after the first day of school. Only one parent/guardian will be allowed to walk their child to class on the first day of school. Masks will be required. Teachers and staff will be on hand to help get students to class, breakfast, etc.
•Curriculum nights, Annual Title I information nights, and other school activities will be held virtually if it is not safe to do so in person.
•Parent/guardian/teacher conferences could be held virtually.
•Georgia High School Association (GHSA) guidelines will be followed for school athletics.
•Visit school websites, social media accounts, and other communication outlets as more information is released on the following: Kinder Camp, sixth-grade orientation, open house
School leaders said they will constantly assess the situation.
“All of the above information is fluid and is dependent upon the spread of the virus in our community,” officials said. “As new data emerges throughout fall 2020 and beyond, the structure of schooling may change rapidly and differ from current guidelines. The Madison County Charter School System community will be informed if any changes become necessary.”