With many eyes on school districts throughout the state as teachers and staff work to limit COVID-19 exposure among students, Polk School District had its first major change to the school year last week.

The system then capped off its second full week with a visit from Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods.

After assessing the restrictive guidelines from the Department of Public Health regarding mandatory quarantines for teachers and students who test positive for COVID-19, Superintendent Laurie Atkins announced Polk County Schools would be reevaluating its plans for online lesson plans.

Students were told to not come to class this week as teachers work on their online lesson plans to better serve students in the classroom as well as those who may have to miss class due to a mandatory quarantine period.

In addition to that, beginning next week, Polk School District will have four-day weeks for students where they only attend classes Tuesday through Friday. This will continue through the end of the first semester.

Teachers will use Mondays to create digital lessons and videos for the week while also allowing an additional day for the district to perform deep cleanings of their buildings and facilities.

Per recommendations by public health officials and the Georgia Department of Education, students and teachers who show symptoms of COVID-19 and test positive for the new coronavirus must stay at home from 10-14 days depending on the severity of their symptoms.

“While we understand an adjustment to our normal schedule at this time may be an inconvenience to our families, we appreciate your patience and understanding of our attempt to keep our students in school despite the many agency mandates/factors outside of our control that are influencing our day-to-day operations,” Atkins stated in a letter sent home to parents.

“We appreciate your partnership as we continue to navigate uncharted territory. Your student’s education, health and well-being is our number one priority.”

Superintendent Woods got an up-close look at the ways Polk School District is keeping students’ safety in mind last Thursday when he visited Rockmart High School with his wife, Lisha Woods.

Atkins said the state superintendent has been visiting schools throughout the state as the new school year begins and met with both Atkins and Rockmart High School Principal Robyn Teems, as well as other district officials.

“He was very pleased with the protocols and safety measures established by the district, allowing us to provide in-person learning,” Atkins said. :His schedule did not allow time for him to visit with any other school. We look forward to showing him the wonderful teaching and learning at our other schools in the near future.”

Woods said in a statement that the precautions put in place by Polk School District, and specifically at Rockmart High School, show that the system has taken the steps to safely welcome students back to school.

“Rockmart is implementing in-classroom meals, creative hallway transitions to avoid close contact, and social distancing in classrooms. Leaders are continually asking themselves: what is the silver lining? What can we learn from this that will improve our educational practice?” Woods said in the statement.

“As I have said, I would never ask a teacher to enter a school building I would not enter myself. I look forward to continuing to spend time in our public schools, and engaging in other ways with school leaders, teachers, and parents currently using a virtual model.”

Polk County schools have had reported cases of both students and teachers testing positive for COVID-19 in the days since classes started back on Aug. 3 with the biggest impact being at Cedartown High School where the confirmed cases in three football players have led to the team temporarily halting practice and canceling its season opening game on Sept. 4 at Carrollton.

According to district officials, students in some Polk School District elementary school classrooms in which a student tested positive for COVID-19 are now at home in quarantine, as are two Rockmart High School teachers who also tested positive.

Polk School District adopted a back-to-school plan in July that instituted several procedures to try and curb the spread of COVID-19, including encouraging students to wear masks, putting new policy in place to avoid large gatherings of students and emphasizing physical distancing and increased sanitization.

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