RCS suspends attendance based incentives in light of COVID-19

Rome City school board members listen to a presentation at their monthly meeting on March 10.

In light of local COVID-19 cases, Rome City Schools suspended all attendance-based incentive programs for students.

“We don’t want that to be a reason for someone to come to school sick,” Superintendent Lou Byars said.

In the past, students have gotten to go ice-skating or have school dances for good behavior — good attendance included. The decision does not mean the incentives are canceled. It just means that attendance is no longer a requirement.

However, Byars did tell the school board at their Tuesday caucus that other field trips haven’t been canceled in light of the coronavirus just yet.

The school system has received no notice from any government agency or local hospitals that anyone within the system has been exposed to the virus, Byars said after the Tuesday board meeting. However, the board wants to ensure that sick students stay at home.

When asked if the system would notify the public if there was a positive case, Dawn Williams, the assistant superintendent, said they would follow guidelines offered by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“It is determined by the level of risk, and they give us guidelines that we need to take action on. We would notify them at that time,” Williams said.

There is a plan to make sure that children are able to continue education in case RCS has to shut down for an extended period of time.

Byars said in caucus that students can continue learning through Google Classroom if schools do close due to the coronavirus. He also said there are ways to make sure students who may not have access to the internet are able to get their work.

The school system plans to feed children even if the schools get shut down, since some students depend on their schools for meals. Plans for a “Grab & Go” program are still being finalized.

On Tuesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced flexibilities to allow meal services during unexpected school closures.

“During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students,” a press release states.

Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation, Perdue said.

Also at the board meeting, Jason Self, who oversees security for the school system, unveiled broad plans to use a security grant from the state. Many local schools will receive additional cameras and fencing under the grant.

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