Rome City Schools not making decisions about COVID guidelines until summer

Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars talks to Education Board Chair Faith Collins (right) at the spring work retreat about their plans for the 2021-2022 school year.

The Rome City Schools Board of Education will not be making any decisions regarding COVID-19 guidelines and mandates until the summer.

Members discussed the issue during their spring work retreat Saturday.

However, Superintendent Lou Byars said he wants to see what the state of the pandemic will be over the summer before they decide on their mask and social distancing policies for the next school year.

“Last year, we thought we were going to be in the clear after the summer,” Byars said. “That obviously wasn’t the case so we want to wait, for now.”

Byars said about 500 out of their 850 employees have been vaccinated. They’ve became a little more lenient with some of the vaccinated staff, such as not requiring masks in small meetings with fully vaccinated employees and no quarantines for vaccinated employees potentially exposed to someone who’s tested positive for the disease.

Board member Melissa Davis, who is also a medical doctor, said the area is still nowhere near attaining herd immunity. She said the board still needs to be clear in their policies when it comes to masks and procedures.

“Don’t back off on these recommendations and policies because that’s when people become more hesitant about the virus and masks,” Davis said.

They will still offer a virtual option for next school year, which the administration describes as a separate program, but not a separate school.

As of right now, they have small registration numbers for virtual learning for next year. Byars said that fits well with their plan to put all students at the same grade level in the same class online. For example, all third graders in the virtual program will be in the same class.

This will only apply to the elementary and middle school students. High schoolers opting for online instruction will be in the Georgia Virtual School program.

The board also went into closed session about halfway through the work retreat to discuss personnel and property. No action was taken.

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