Meal crew

School leaders are among those helping to hand out meals, which the school system will continue to do during the extended closure. From left: Kellie Yarbrough, Cloud Spring Elementary; Chance Nix, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High; Kent McCrary, Battlefield Elementary; Superintendent Denia Reese; Robert Mountjoy, Westside Elementary; Vince Phillips, Lakeview Middle.

Catoosa County schools will remain closed until at least April 27, School Superintendent Denia Reese said Wednesday, March 25. The schools were scheduled to reopen April 6.

“In an abundance of caution, on March 12, I announced that Catoosa County Public Schools would transition to the digital learning platform to reduce the opportunity for the spread of COVID-19 in our area,” Reese said. “In an abundance of optimism, I expected we could return to school on April 6, 2020. With my current understanding of the spread of COVID-19, we must continue our extended closure and digital learning platform until further notice.”

Reese explained why the school system would not reopen before April 27.

“According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms appear two to fourteen days after exposure,” she said. “Our spring break is March 30 through April 3. Since we don’t have to ‘shelter in place,’ I expect some people may travel during this time, so we should close for at least fourteen days after spring break.

“Yesterday (March 24), Governor (Bill) Lee in Tennessee mandated all Tennessee schools close until April 24. Since we are in a unique situation as a border county, I must consider this guidance. I expect we will also receive guidance from our Governor Brian Kemp.

“Given this information, the earliest we could reopen is April 27. While a final decision for a reopening date has not been determined, I will communicate with the community regularly about our status.”

On Thursday, March 26, Gov. Brian Kemp closed public elementary and secondary schools for in-person instruction through April 24. The executive order stated students may return to school on April 27.

Reese said the school year will end as scheduled on May 22. “Catoosa County Public Schools is a Georgia Charter System, which means we determine local requirements for instructional delivery,” she said. “During our closure, instruction is provided through the digital learning platform. Digital Learning Days count as school days, so our school year will end on May 22 as scheduled.”

It is unclear yet whether graduation ceremonies will be canceled, she said. “The decision about graduation ceremonies is pending guidance from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) regarding social distancing. Graduation is still eight weeks away. While we all hope these ceremonies will proceed as scheduled, we are proactively discussing options for our seniors and their families to have this significant memory. We will keep you updated regarding this decision.”

Meanwhile, proms for the school system’s three high schools — Ringgold, Heritage and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe — are canceled, she said. “All of our high school proms were planned for venues in Chattanooga, Tenn. On March 24, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke signed Executive Order 2020-04 prohibiting mass gatherings of ten or more people. Currently, the end date aligns with the CDC’s recommendation for social distancing through May 11, which is after all of our prom dates. Students who have purchased tickets for proms will be refunded.”

Full text: School superintendent’s message

Here is the full text of Superintendent Reese’s message delivered Wednesday, March 25, including a Q&A:

In an abundance of caution, on March 12, I announced that Catoosa County Public Schools would transition to the Digital Learning Platform to reduce the opportunity for the spread of COVID-19 in our area. In an abundance of optimism, I expected we could return to school on April 6, 2020. With my current understanding of the spread of COVID-19, we must continue our extended closure and digital learning platform until further notice.

You cannot imagine how difficult it is for me to make this announcement. I LOVE going to school! As a student, teacher, principal, and now superintendent, there is nowhere I would rather be than at school. I have always promised this community that my highest priority is student and employee safety, and to fulfill this promise it is necessary for our schools to remain closed.

While our schools are closed, I am working on a daily basis with our neighboring school districts (including Hamilton County, Tenn.); local, state, and national health partners; the Governor’s Office; and the Georgia Department of Education. We are collaborating to assess the risk to community health and to make decisions that are best to end “community spread” of COVID-19.

For those of you who remember the 2011 tornado, you know we returned to school as soon as it was possible, and safe. My son was a senior in 2011. I KNOW how important it is for our students, especially our seniors, to say goodbye to their friends. It is my heart’s desire, and my daily prayer, to return to school this year! As soon as I can be confident that our students and employees will be safe, we will return to school.

Sincerely,

Superintendent Denia Reese

With the plan for extended closure, I will answer some questions I would have if I were a parent, community member, or student. If you have additional questions, please email me at questions@catoosa.k12.ga.us.

When will Catoosa County schools reopen? According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms appear 2-14 days after exposure. Our Spring Break is March 30 – April 3. Since we don’t have to “shelter in place,” I expect some people may travel during this time, so we should close for at least 14 days after Spring Break.

Yesterday, Governor Lee in Tennessee mandated all Tennessee schools close until April 24. Since we are in a unique situation as a border county, I must consider this guidance. I expect we will also receive guidance from our Governor, Brian Kemp.

Given this information, the earliest we could reopen is April 27. While a final decision for a reopening date has not been determined, I will communicate with the community regularly about our status.

Will the school year be extended due to this closure? CCPS is a Georgia Charter System, which means we determine local requirements for instructional delivery. During our closure, instruction is provided through the digital learning platform. Digital Learning Days count as school days, so our school year will end on May 22 as scheduled.

Why do students have to participate in Digital Learning? COVID-19 has interrupted our life this spring, but the interruption is temporary. Students must continue learning so they are prepared for their next grade in school in the fall. Students are earning “credit” for the work they are completing from home, and parents can be confident this work is preparing them for school next year.

Does the school system understand that digital learning is challenging for working parents? YES! As Superintendent, I completely understand that Digital Learning Days are challenging for parents. I want you to know WE ARE AVAILABLE TO HELP!

♦ Assignment Assistance: Teachers are working. For assistance with assignments visit the school website. Teachers’ email addresses are listed in the staff directory.

♦ Technology Support (Phone Hours): Monday – Thursday, 8:30 am -3:30 pm:

  1. RHS, RMS, TCE, RPS, RES, and GES: Call 706-265-1020
  2. HHS, HMS, Boynton, BES, BPS, and Woodstation: Call 706-965-1021
  3. LFO, LMS, PLC, COA, WSE, and CSE: Call 706-965-1022

♦ Device Exchange and Repair: Call one of the Technology Support lines for directions.

♦ Chromebook and iPad Care and instructions: www.catoosa.k12.ga.us, Parent Quick Links

CCPS Offices and Digital Learning will be CLOSED for Spring Break (March 30- April 3)

Digital Learning Day Schedule beginning April 6: Monday – Thursday!

Fridays are self-directed learning or family fun days!

Will the school system continue to provide meals during the extended closure? YES. Beginning April 6, each Monday we are closed, meals for a week will be available at LFO High School from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

For families who do not have transportation to LFO High School, Meal Delivery will be provided. Email smason@catoosa.k12.ga.us or call 706-965-0266 and provide Name, Address, Phone Number, and the Number of Children needing meals.

Are High School Proms canceled? Yes. All of our high school proms were planned for venues in Chattanooga, TN. On March 24, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke signed Executive Order 2020-04 prohibiting mass gatherings of ten or more people. Currently, the end date aligns with the CDC’s recommendation for social distancing through May 11, which is after all of our prom dates. Students who have purchased tickets for proms will be refunded.

Are Graduation Ceremonies canceled? The decision about graduation ceremonies is pending guidance from the CDC regarding social distancing. Graduation is still eight weeks away. While we all hope these ceremonies will proceed as scheduled, we are proactively discussing options for our seniors and their families to have this significant memory. We will keep you updated regarding this decision.

Will students be required to take state tests? No. The Georgia Department of Education has canceled Georgia Milestones testing for the 2019-2020 school year. This included End of Grade, Georgia Alternative Assessment, and End of Course Testing.

Can high school seniors planning to go to college take the SAT/ACT? Due to concern about social distancing, the College Board and ACT have suspended all upcoming ACT and SAT testing dates indefinitely. The Chancellor of the University System of Georgia has approved a temporary adjustment to admissions criteria that allows institutions to approve students for admission if they do not have scores from these national tests.

Will previously scheduled field trips still take place, and if not, will parents/guardians receive a refund for what has been paid? Individual schools are in contact with travel agencies and companies regarding reimbursement for field trips planned for the remainder of the year. Field trips outside the North Georgia area will be canceled due to the uncertainty of travel at this time. Local field trips scheduled for the end of the year will be evaluated in the coming weeks. Schools will reimburse any funds paid toward canceled field trips before the end of the school year.

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