Floyd County Schools to push back student first day to August 13, in-person graduation plans canceled

Floyd County Board of Education members hold a called meeting early Thursday to approve the school system’s draft budget and discuss pushing back the start date for classes as well as canceling in-person graduations.

Citing recent increases in COVID-19 infections in Floyd County and a need to get teachers trained on new technology for virtual learning platforms, the Floyd County Schools system pushed back their first day for students to Aug. 13.

Teachers will still go back to work on July 30 but will now have 10 days to get their classrooms ready as well as get training on platforms to produce live online lessons for students.

The calendar will not change except for those five teacher work days, Superintendent Jeff Wilson told the school board during a called meeting on Thursday morning.

They will eliminate several scheduled half days during the year to make up for the lost class time.

Several school systems in Georgia — primarily in the metro Atlanta area — have already pushed back their first day of school. Some school systems just over the border in Alabama also are delaying their start date. The Cherokee County School System, which borders Floyd County, has pushed back their start date to Aug. 19.

Another reason to set the later date for students to return, Wilson said, is they need to make sure all of them have Chromebooks in order to participate in online learning if the schools can’t open on Aug. 13.

Online learning programs this year will come in one of two ways: if a student opts to take lessons from home for a specified period of time, or if schools have to close their facilities because of either an increase in the community spread of the coronavirus or school-specific outbreaks.

Those lessons will be conducted differently from the ones put into place when schools were first shut down by the state, Wilson said.

Two of the main differences are that there will be specified times when teachers will give live lessons and the grades students receive will be counted.

As they work toward putting the plans together for coming back to school there are many policies they need to set in place.

For instance, Wilson said, not only do they need to be aware of the spread of the virus but also when a student or faculty member should be allowed back in school after testing positive.

“We’ve got to get that all nailed down,” Wilson said.

Graduation

The superintendent also canceled in-person graduation ceremonies scheduled for next week after discussion from the board.

The school system had drive-through graduation ceremonies at the end of this past school year for each of its four high schools and had planned to have in-person ceremonies on July 23-24.

The superintendent suggested canceling the ceremonies citing the increased spread of the coronavirus, especially in younger adults, as well as warnings from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“I just have a burden of completely ignoring advice (from the DPH),” Wilson told the board. “...If (going forward with the ceremony) is a mistake, it’s a mistake that could be deadly.”

Board member Chip Hood, who argued against canceling the in-person events, said he thought drive-through ceremonies were “fabulous” and talked about how much the graduates enjoyed the celebrations. But he said often graduations are more for the parents than the students and, from the beginning, the school system said they would have in-person graduations if they could.

Budget

The board also passed a budget, which will be subject to public comment in the coming week.

The first hearing is scheduled for July 13 at 11:30 a.m. and the second public hearing is scheduled for July 13 at 6 p.m. The third public hearing will be held at 7:45 a.m. followed by the regular monthly board meeting at 8 a.m.

The board meets at the main office, 600 Riverside Parkway.

Despite a projected revenue drop of approximately 12.5%, Wilson said they’re in good shape because they’ve been putting money in a rainy day fund over the past few years.

“If the board didn’t have the foresight to put money away, we’d be furloughing right now,” Wilson said.

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