Students in Calhoun and Gordon County return to in-person class on Wednesday, and both local superintendents are asking families for their help to keep students and teachers safe.
“While we have intensive protocols in place to keep students, teachers and staff safe, it will take everyone working together to ensure that we follow all procedures, including limiting non-essential visitors to our campuses,” said Calhoun Superintendent Michele Taylor. “We will closely monitor bus capacity, hallway transitions and class changes. We will spend the first few weeks of school going over new school procedures. It will take some time to get the school year started, but we are confident that we have a strong plan in place.”
Gordon County Superintendent Kimberly Fraker said that while masks are not being required in schools, officials do encourage and expect the use of face coverings in situations where social distancing isn’t possible, such as high traffic areas and on buses.
“This is for the health and safety of students and staff. In addition, each school will work with their students to help them become familiar with new processes and procedures designed to ensure the learning environment is aligned to Department of Public Health and CDC recommendations. Please assist us by encouraging your child to listen carefully as these are shared and practiced in the first few days of school and to adhere to our new procedures for both inside and outside the classroom,” Fraker said.
Both school leaders say students who become ill, live with someone who becomes ill, or come into contact with a positive case of COVID-19 should not go to school until they meet the Department of Public Health’s guidelines, which include an absence of at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours since a fever for mild cases, and 20 days for more severe cases. Ten days is also the guideline for asymptomatic cases with a positive test result.
Students and parents will be notified whenever there is a positive COVID-19 case at their school that has a connection to the student. Taylor said confirmed cases in local schools is an inevitability.
“Will there be confirmed cases in the schools? Yes. As one of the largest employers in our city and county, Calhoun City Schools has already had staff members who have had direct or indirect contact with persons who have COVID-19,” she said. “Some individuals have tested positive with no symptoms, while others have had mild symptoms. As businesses and the community have opened, there has been community spread. We are realistic in knowing that re-opening schools will likely cause an uptick in cases due to increased testing and exposure. We also know that education will be key to help us slow the spread and act responsibly.”
Both school system have details concerning their plans on their respective websites.
A return to school means a significant uptick in local traffic, particularly near school buildings, and Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle said motorists should be mindful of speed limits in school zones and other safety laws, such as not passing a stopped school bus.
Pyle offered the following tips ahead of Wednesday’s first day of school:
♦ If you are driving behind a school bus, allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car. It will give you more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing. It is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is stopped with its lights flashing and stop sign out.
♦ Never pass a school bus from behind or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road and the bus has stopped.
♦ If the red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop. (Yellow caution lights flashing on a school bus are like the ones at an intersection, meaning if you can stop, then you should.)
♦ The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children, stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus.
♦ An as always, obey the posted speed limit and refrain from distracted driving.
♦ Be alert, children are often unpredictable and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.