Rome school system teachers will begin training for a school year like no other as they come back to work in the next few weeks.
According to Superintendent Lou Byars, teachers will be conducting hybrid classes, a combination of online and in-person instruction.
Around 1,400 students have already chosen to enroll in the RCS Virtual Learning Academy, which is around 20% of their student body.
“Everyone, at some point, may be virtual,” Byars said. “We want all our teachers to know how to teach in that environment.”
When board member Alvin Jackson inquired about special education students, Byars said they’ve been working with the special education teachers, the ESL teachers and the gifted teachers to figure out the best way to meet the needs of their students.
“I know Ms. Kriszti Kilpatrick and her staff have been working all summer, working with people throughout the state and the feds to identify ways we can still serve our students,” he said, referring to the system’s director of special education.
“It’s not going to be perfect,” he added. “It’s a learning experience and we’re going to have some hiccups, but I know they’ve been preparing since May at least.”
The board approved an operation plan for potential COVID-19 exposures at their monthly meeting Tuesday.
The plan is divided into three sections to determine the exposure risk in their schools: green, yellow and red. Byars created the plan based on information from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Georgia Board of Education.
Ultimately, public health will be in charge of contact tracing at the schools.
When a student or faculty member tests positive for COVID-19, the school will alert the DPH and they will determine the best course of action for containing the case. The decision will be based on whether the person shows symptoms, has a fever of 100.4 or higher and how many people might have been exposed.
The school system will have all students and faculty wear masks in the schools and take temperatures as people come into a building. Cleaning staff will sanitize all areas throughout the day and perform a more thorough cleaning at night.
The board called Northwest Georgia DPH District Health Director Dr. Gary Voccio on Tuesday for input on the current status of the region.
Voccio said none of the counties in the region are in the red zone and that the current tests coming in have an 11% positive rate. He said that measure is still high but appears to be going down.
Voccio said young children are still less likely to transmit the coronavirus, but the transmission rate for people between the ages of 10 and 19 is more difficult to determine.
One way or another, school will be starting back on Aug. 13. Byars said they will follow whatever guidelines the DPH and Gov. Brian Kemp have for schools reopening.
The school system plans to organize sessions for students and parents to meet teachers and learn how the virtual and in-person instruction programs will work.
Chromebooks will be issued to students during meet-the-teacher events, from Aug. 10 to Aug. 12.
For elementary school students, two grades will meet each day at different times, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
On Aug. 10, kindergarten students will meet in the morning and first grade students will meet in the afternoon. Second and third grade students will meet on Aug. 11 and fourth grade, pre-K, fifth grade and sixth grade will meet on Aug. 12.
Middle school and high school meet-the-teacher events will take place the same days, but will be divided by last name.
Last names A through I will meet on Aug. 10, names J through Q will meet on Aug. 11 and R through Z will meet on Aug. 12.
Arrangements will be made so parents with children in different elementary school grades or with different last names will not have to come back on multiple days.
All rising seventh and ninth graders must bring back their Chromebooks and chargers if they kept them over the summer and exchange them for a new one.
“We’ll provide some training for the parents and that child, because some of these children might not know how to use a Chromebook and how to log in to class,” Byars said.
The next RCS board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 11 at 5:30 p.m. with a pre-meeting caucus at 4:30 p.m.