With less than eight weeks from the scheduled start of school, Rome City Schools board of education is still working on a plan for the return to classes.
Superintendent Lou Byars came to Tuesday’s regular meeting of the board planning to recommend approval of a flexible instruction premise — allowing students to either attend classes in person or participate in virtual learning from home.
Some board members, however, expressed a desire to get parent and teacher input on the option before taking action, and Byars decided to not make a formal recommendation in order to evaluate and work on the plan more.
The plan presented by Byars during caucus includes several requirements for students and teachers to follow that promote health and safety during the time of COVID-19, including guidance on wearing masks, social distancing and hygiene.
The committees that helped shape the plan were made up of central office staff and system administrators, as well as representatives from Floyd Medical Center and the Department of Public Health.
“As a board member, I certainly rely on the central office staff to know what is best for our system, but I would have loved to have had teachers’ involvement and feedback on this,” Board Chair Faith Collins said. “They will be the ones most impacted by whatever decision we make.”
The instruction option favored by Byars gives parents the option to keep their child at home and have them log into class through their school-issued Chromebook, where they would be able to see their teacher instructing their regular class.
Byars said he felt that the principals and assistant principals on the committees were representative of the thoughts and concerns of teachers. He also said a communication campaign would be unveiled to explain the plan to parents prior to the start of the school year.
He also expressed a concern that the longer the board takes to make a decision on the exact plan, the harder it will be for them to purchase any special equipment needed, such as cameras and microphones for teachers.
In other action, the board unanimously approved three, unpaid, non-work days for all school system employees as a part of the 2020-2021 school year
The days will be the employee’s first two days they are scheduled to return to work and their last day of the school year. For teachers, that means two of those days would be at the beginning of the five-day preplanning period at the end of July, with the third one on the last day of post-planning in May 2021.
Byars said the move will save the system about $660,000.