ATLANTA -- Six working groups of educators, public health officials and representatives of state agencies and nonprofits will lead the effort to safely reopen Georgia schools closed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Brian Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods formed the six K-12 Restart Working Groups Thursday to help provide guidelines for the safe reopening of schools for the 2020-21 school year.

“As we work to defeat this virus, we want to ensure Georgia’s students are safe, secure and learning,” Kemp said. “Georgians can be assured the safety of students, families and school staff is our first priority. These K-12 Restart groups will ensure we have experts at the table as we take measured steps forward.”

The 72 members will divide their responsibilities among working groups responsible for distance and professional learning; school meals; mental health and wellness; connectivity and devices; supplemental learning; and facilities, transportation and equipment.

“These working groups … will provide invaluable expertise and perspective as we ensure schools are prepared for the fall and have options to ensure learning continues, following the advice and guidance of public health officials on the national and state levels,” Woods said.

The following were named to chair the six working groups:

Caitlin Dooley, deputy superintendent of teaching and learning for the Georgia Department of Education (Distance and Professional Learning group)

Linette Dodson, school nutrition director for the Georgia Department of Education (School Meals group)

Ashley Harris, director of whole child supports and strategic partnerships for the Georgia Department of Education (Mental Health and Wellness group)

Jannine Miller, office of the governor (Connectivity and Devices group)

Shaun Owen, deputy superintendent of federal programs for the Georgia Department of Education (Supplemental Learning group)

Garry McGiboney, deputy superintendent for school safety and climate for the Georgia Department of Education (Facilities, Transportation and Equipment group)

No Rome or Floyd County educators were named to the panels but there are several from Calhoun City Schools.

Schools across Georgia have been practicing distance learning since mid-March, when the governor closed the schools to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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