DAWSON COUNTY, Ga.- With the school year for Dawson County already well underway, several precautions have been taken in the “best interest” of the students in the county for a safe school year, amid COVID-19.
“This time of the year, there are all kinds of changes [in the first few weeks of school],” Tiffany Davis, executive assistant to superintendent of Dawson County Schools, said.
The first couple weeks of the school year is when students are deciding on a school, as well as making the change from in-person to virtual as well. According to the Dawson County School District’s website, a total of 3,676 are enrolled, with 523 staff members.
There is a total of 14 positive COVID cases and one staff member.
Hershel Bennett, assistant superintendent for human resources and operations, stated this school year has been more involved on the back end of things to prepare for the arrival of students again in the fall.
“There’s a lot more work [that was] put in [during] the summer,” Bennett said.
Within the schools, there’s constant cleaning, directional arrows – as well as encouragement of masks – and social distancing with each portion to the day including lunch. Bennett explained that the schools are dispersing students to sit in classrooms, while socially distancing, and in cafeteria or lunch spaces.
Bennett claimed approximately 15% of families in the Dawson County School District are attending school online, but that will most likely fluctuate throughout the school year.
“Continually having to be flexible and have a plan ready to start school was a key to getting started this year,” Bennett stated.
The school district is taking several steps to keep the students safe, including:
- Buses have assigned seats; siblings next to one another, being socially distant when possible
- Social distancing within schools, with directional arrows
- Use of masks is encouraged
- Created water refill stations; closed water fountains
- Lunch schedules are extended
Bennett said the district will continue to keep the students safe and put them first, as they have been, to give the best learning experience. According to Bennett, Dawson County COVID cases have dropped each week.
“Our schools have done an exceptional job with social distancing, contact tracing and making sure that the students are following as many guidelines as they can to keep them safe,” Bennett said.
RALEIGH: More than 1,300 educators from rural North Carolina participated in a virtual conference focused on remote learning to help them be better prepared to teach throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Cooper opened the REAL(Remote Education and Leadership) Conference and gave the welcoming remarks via a video message.
“When we had to close schools for in person learning in March, you were quick to adapt, staying connected to your students and making sure they continued to get the best education possible,” Governor Cooper told the participating educators. “I appreciate your efforts to help address the challenges to remote learning and help students get connected to stay on track in their studies.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic schools across North Carolina switched to remote learning in the spring and many students will continue to learn remotely as the new school year begins. Remote learning can be especially challenging in rural communities due to a lack of internet access and other technology resources and funding challenges.
The REAL Conference offered a professional development opportunity for rural educators designed by rural educators. At the conference, rural educators got the opportunity to learn best practices in remote learning and discuss how to addressing unique challenges faced by rural educators.
Participating educators chose from over 40 sessions throughout the day covering all grade levels. Sessions provided first-hand experience of remote learning tools and best practices. Topics included: Virtual STEAM: Hands-On Learning at Home; Digital Tools to Support Distance Learning; Accessible Remote Learning for Exceptional Learners; Connecting with Disconnected Students; Mindfulness-Based Social Emotional Learning; How to Assess Learning Games; Ed Puzzle: Actively Engaging Students with Videos; Bitmoji Interactive Lessons in Google Slides; Museum Learning Opportunities; and multiple topics on Google Classroom. Dr. Mary Hemphill, former superintendent of Scotland County Public Schools and current director of K-12 Computer Science at the NC Department of Public Instruction, gave the keynote address.
Educators and parents can view the recording of the REAL Conference HERE.
Conference hosts included the North Carolina Business Committee on Education (NCBCE), a nonprofit housed in the Governor’s Office, along with Governor Cooper’s Hometown Strong initiative for rural North Carolina, the Department of Public Instruction and the NC Virtual Public Schools.
When schools transitioned to remote learning, NCBCE partnered with Hometown Strong to launch the Remote Learning Working Group) to help improve remote learning in rural counties by getting more students connected to the internet and helping educators adapt to teaching remotely. The Working Group includes experts in education and technology from the public and private sectors.
Content for the REAL Conference was developed by the Remote Learning Working Group as well as a team of educators from rural North Carolina: Joseph Hayes from Edgecombe County Schools, Sonia Boone from Halifax County Schools, Kristy Marslander from Hyde County Schools, Heather Herron from Swain County Schools and Wendy Harrell and Phyllis King from Robeson County Schools.
Thanks to Google, Smithfield Foods, AT&T, Fidelity Investments, Dell, American Tower, and Tony Brown of Public Consulting Group for their sponsorship of the REAL Conference through NCBCE.
Quote from members of the Remote Learning Working Group:
“Google is excited to help facilitate this important conversation between educators, the business community and state leaders regarding remote learning—a challenge that is top of mind for nearly everyone as we approach a new school year,” said Lilyn Hester, Head of External Affairs – Southeast, Google and leader of the Remote Learning Working Group. “We look forward to discussing solutions to ensure our children have the connectivity required to keep their education on track.”
Dr. Eric Cunningham, Superintendent of Halifax County Schools said, “The REAL Conference, the remote learning conference focused on supporting North Carolina’s rural educators provides a much-needed benefit for rural school systems. Halifax County Schools will benefit greatly. Our teachers are excited and ready to participate.”
Dr. Steve Basnight, Superintendent of Hyde County Public Schools said, “I want to thank all the fantastic educators who worked to make the REAL Conference a reality. This will provide a tremendous opportunity for our staff to receive professional development on remote learning and collaborate with other educators right before we begin our teacher workdays to open the new school year!”
About the North Carolina Business Committee for Education:
The North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE) is a business-led, education non-profit (501-c3) that operates out of the Office of the Governor. Since 1983, NCBCE has provided a critical link between North Carolina business leaders and the state’s education decision makers, helping to create connections between the education curriculum and the overall work readiness of citizens across the state. Learn more at ncbce.org.
About Hometown Strong:
Governor Cooper created Hometown Strong to build partnerships between state agencies and local leaders to champion rural communities. The effort leverages state and local resources, identifies ongoing projects and community needs and implements focused plans to boost the economy, improve infrastructure and strengthen North Carolina’s hometowns.