Rome school board members tour new College and Career Academy

In this November file photo, Superintendent Lou Byars (left) points out a feature to Rome City Schools board of education members during a tour of their new College and Career Academy under construction on the campus of Rome High School.

The Christmas break has brought more students back to in-person classes in the Rome City Schools system, and it’s going to take a little adjustment.

“We gave students the option to switch to virtual learning or return to school at the end of the first semester,” Superintendent Lou Byars said. “So we did some realignment and we’re continuing to work with that and it seems to be going fairly smoothly.”

That could be a bit of a challenge this year, with more students returning to classes alongside social distancing measures. Also, when classes resumed Tuesday after the break, Byars said, they have fewer students and faculty quarantining from a COVID-19 exposure.

“We still have some minor tweaking to do with some of the classes and some of the students, but I think it’s going pretty well,” he said.

At the beginning of the school year, about 25% of RCS students were doing school from home. That number has since decreased, with fewer students in virtual classes. But since they had students return to in-person learning, teachers and administrators have had to adjust classroom sizes.

The city school system monitors local COVID-19 numbers to get a good idea of whether they should close the schools and return to virtual learning. But despite the high hospitalization numbers, Byars said they felt that it would be safe for students to return as long as they follow proper procedures.

While some school systems in Georgia, like Gainesville City Schools, have begun the new semester virtually, Byars and staff are continuing to make decisions on a daily basis to determine if they’ll switch back to virtual learning.

“For now, we’re trying to make that decision by noon each day,” he said. “We feel like that, by the measures we take, we can curb the spread a little bit. We require masks, we wash hands, we social distance. We do all the things that we need to be doing so we hope that it doesn’t cause more strain on the local hospitals.”

At the same time, the city school system is preparing to open the new College and Career Academy on Friday.

Teachers are moving into their classrooms and construction workers are putting the final touches on the new facility.

“Some areas need training for operations, like we have the blackbox for performance so we had some training on how to operate lights,” Byars said. “Friday is looking great for the College and Career Academy, as long as the weather holds up.”

Along with the classrooms and lab rooms, the building will have athletics facilities, a large meeting room, a multi-purpose area for the arts and extracurricular activities and a medical clinic operated by Floyd Medical Center.

Students will start their classes in the new facility on Monday, Jan. 11.

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