BOE updates Distance Learning and Calendar Survey

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JASPER, Ga. – With focused consideration for students “not on track” in classwork, the Pickens County Board of Education heard an update on Distance Learning from Curriculum Director Anita Walker.

Pickens is returning as many students as possible to in-person learning rather than virtual learning. Walker noted that they have had students “not-on-track” returning to in-person for multiple reasons varying from a dislike or disconnection with the Pearson program, including some technical issues the school overcame in the first part of the semester, to issue with difficulty of use and focus to scheduling conflicts with younger children who need parental help with the programs while the parents might be working full-time.

While the schools have some experiencing difficulties, many others are succeeding and progressing in the virtual learning. More success was seen in lower grades, Kindergarten to 4th Grade.

Walker did note, however, that she felt that in-person is usually going to provide better educational experiences for the majority of students.

During her presentation, Walker pointed out some details that may be contributing to those not on track with the program including time spent with the program. She broke down data specifically focused on those in that category based on grade levels and compared them to the number of students spending more or less that 30 hours a week on the program.

Touching on support for the program and changes to bolster their efforts to support students and families choosing virtual learning, Walker noted the teachers efforts such as a tutoring program that virtual and in-person students can take advantage of. They are also putting extensions on some class work to aid in students needing that.

On the other side, with about 60 students moving from in-person to virtual learning for various reasons, Walker said the school encouraged students and families to come in a go over the program so that they would no and understand all of the requirements and needs involved with the program before fully committing to virtual learning.

Distance learning was not the only discussion for the day, however, as the board looked closer at results from a survey over the school calendar for 2021-2022.

Learning, Calendar, EducationNearing the mid-point of the school year, early discussion is already coming in for the next school year as Pickens County is going through the lengthy process of adopting a school year calendar.

According to Superintendent Dr. Rick Townsend, a survey was taken with input from students, parents, employees, and residents/business owners.

Of the 1209 replies to the survey, the boards report indicated that 500 were parents, 298 employees, 60 students, and 39 residents/business owners.

The vast majority emphasized a great importance on Thanksgiving and Christmas and not changing those breaks.

Additionally, 70% of the response said they would prefer a digital learning day for snow days or inclement weather rather than making those days up during winter break.

Many comments supported moving back the start date of school into mid to late August, but the board was told that hey would have to do away with several breaks to incorporate that change.

While the recommendation is set to be the same calendar as previously recommended, the board will be voting on the calendar next Thursday, December 10, 2020.

Traditional or virtual school is the choice for Towns students

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HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County students and parents must choose between returning to in-person education or participating in online classes. They can decide in favor of traditional or online education for their children by July 27, so Towns County Schools can accommodate for online learning tools.

Here’s a link to the form.

Those enrolled in online courses can return to the traditional, in-person setting, but only after nine-weeks. Parents must contact the school before sending their child back to traditional school.

Online and traditional options will face similar standards and incomplete work can adversely affect a students’ grades. Concerning online courses, students should turn in work “when appropriate. Physical work should be turned in by Friday of the assigned week unless otherwise specified in order to receive full credit.”

Traditional Class Details

For students who return to in-person classes, each child will receive a temperature check in their first class of the day. Staff and visitors will have their temperature taken upon arrival at the building. If someone has a temperature of 100 degrees, they will be sent to the nurse to have it rechecked. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or over will immediately be sent home. To return to school, they must be fever free without fever-reducers for 72 hours.

Students feeling ill will be sent to the school nurse and any exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated to prevent spread. Contact tracing will be conducted as appropriate.

All students and faculty will be given face masks to wear. Staff will be required to wear a face-covering when in close proximity of students or others. If capable of social distancing of six feet or more, the mask can be removed.

Students are expected to wear masks during class changes and if a situation where close contact is unavoidable, such as small group instruction. Exceptions will be made if the individual has a health condition that would prevent them from wearing a mask.

Classrooms will open at 7:30 a.m. and students who eat breakfast in the cafeteria will pick it up in a designated location and take it to their classroom.

At lunch, each grade level will rotate which classes eat in the cafeteria or classroom.  For example, two 6th grade classes will eat in the classroom and the other two will eat in the cafeteria during their assigned lunchtime.

The check-out area now has plexiglass and a touch-free pay system. TCS encourages parents to send money in advance to avoid physical money transactions. They can also use My Payments Plus to purchase meals ahead of time. Each student will only go through the cafeteria line once and disposable dinnerware will be used.

When changing classes, a one-way hallway direction system will be in place to limit the number of people in the hallway.

Hand sanitizer stations are available in each classroom and in other areas of the building. Students are also expected to wash their hands before meals.

Drinking fountains will be turned off, but water filling stations are still on. Students who bring a water bottle can fill it with water for the day.

Throughout the day, the custodial staff will sanitize frequently touched surfaces and objects. Gym and play equipment will be cleaned between use. The ventilation system will be frequently monitored to ensure it’s operating properly and circulating outside air.  TCS will use Gen Eon spray to sanitize classrooms, gyms, and other areas.

Towns County Schools

The gymnasium will be cleaned between use. 

Bus protocols reflect the new hygiene policies and students will be separated as much as possible.

No visitors or parent volunteers will be allowed inside the school. Parents need to contact teachers through LivingTree, email, or phone. They won’t be allowed to drop by classrooms in the mornings because students will already be there.

For the first week of school, kindergarten parents can walk their child to class, but after that students are expected to walk to class on their own. Parents who do walk with their kindergartens must wear a mask. Staff will be stationed throughout the building to ensure all children safely make it to their classrooms.

No field trips or large group assemblies are allowed at this time. The large group measure could change depending on state guidelines.

No open house will be held before school opens to keep the number of people inside the building limited. Kindergarten class will schedule times for students to visit so they can become familiar with the room before the first day.

If an active case within the school system is confirmed, a school closing protocol is in place. One case will result in two days of the building closing. Two to Four active cases will close schools for three days. Five cases or more is an automatic 14 day shutdown of the school building.

These plans are still subject to change and for those who want to read everything in detail, visit the Towns County Schools website.

Fetch Your News will make updates as more information becomes available. Feature image from TCS website.

Towns County football

The reopening plans didn’t discuss sports o other extracurricular activities. 

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