The Catoosa County Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 4, to discuss budgetary and other issues.

Big on everyone’s minds was the reopening plans for the coming school year, but Superintendent Denia Reese says no changes were made to the plan that was posted on the school system’s website on July 27.

According to a letter posted on the website from Reese to parents and the public:

♦ Students in digital and in-person learning will begin on Aug. 24.

♦ Elementary school students (K-5) will go to school five days a week.

♦ Pre-K, middle, and high school students will begin on a hybrid schedule, attending Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday.

♦ The school calendar will remain the same. The only change is the first day of school (which had been Aug. 10).

Reese says the beginning of this school year will be “all hands on deck.” Teachers, auxiliary teachers and aides will be in classrooms to help maintain safe health practices and to help children bridge any gaps that developed from the abrupt early end of classroom learning and the scramble to adapt to online learning last school year.

Neither COVID-19 nor budget cuts, says Reese, will impact the jobs of anyone in the school system. The system is working to fill some vacant non-teaching positions, including cleaning technician positions.

Reese says all classes at the elementary level will be kept at 16 students or below and most classes at upper levels will maintain the same numbers in order to facilitate social distancing.

“I want our students and parents to know this is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make!,” Reese wrote on the CCPS website. “No one wants to open in full traditional instruction more than I do…

“I know students are less likely to contract the virus or to have serious symptoms from COVID, but I must take precautions to keep our teachers and staff healthy. Catoosa County is doing a good job mitigating the spread of COVID in our county; however, an outbreak in a school could escalate our numbers quickly.

“Families of 10,500 students and 1,700 employees are counting on the school system to open school safely. With smaller class sizes, social distancing in common areas, new body temperature scanners, additional cleaning technicians, advanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols, frequent hand washing, and masks when we can’t social distance, we are taking our responsibility to maintain student and employee health seriously, so Catoosa County Public Schools can remain open for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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