ALBANY — The Dougherty County School System will launch a program on Tuesday to distribute laptop computers and mobile hot spots to students who need those materials, starting with high school seniors.
Later in the week, the school board will discuss how the system will deal with the remaining seven or so weeks left in the current school year, including whether students will return at all prior to the end of the school term.
School Superintendent Kenneth Dyer closed all schools on March 13 through April 6 as the community began enacting social distancing to combat the coronavirus.
Since that time, the number of cases has spiked in the community, with seven deaths attributed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in Dougherty County and other deaths of residents from Early, Lee and Terrell counties.
School officials have contacted parents of seniors and set appointments for the pickup of internet devices for those who need them.
The laptops and internet hot spots will be delivered to parents’ cars, so they do not have to enter a school building. When parents sign a user agreement for the devices, they will keep the pen, Dyer said.
“Our commitment is to provide our students with the opportunity for continued, high-quality instruction on an equitable basis,” he said. “Our aim is to provide both students and teachers with appropriate support, as we work to ensure our students are academically prepared.
“We understand all of our students don’t have access to the devices or tools needed for digital instruction, so, we are implementing our distance learning plan that provides for equitable access to needed resources.”
Students were handed paper packets on the last day of classes containing instructional material to last through April 6. If necessary, additional packets will be handed out along bus routes, which the system has been using to distribute two meals per day to students.
School personnel who will be tasked with handing out the laptops and mobile hot spots have been screened to determine whether they are at risk for having been exposed to the coronavirus.
“Principals at each high school have been tasked with forming teams that will assist with drive-through device distribution,” the school system said in an email. “Prior to being assigned to assist, potential team members will be asked a series of screening questions regarding their potential exposure to COVID-19. If, based on the responses to the questions, an employee is deemed to be at-risk, he or she will not serve on the distribution team.
“This plan has been discussed with the Dougherty County Emergency Management Task Force to ensure compliance with the current shelter-in-place order.”
After the distribution of mobile devices to seniors, the school system will notify parents at other schools of scheduled appointments for students in other grades.
The school board will meet Wednesday via a video conference, Dyer told The Herald on Saturday after a daily COVID-19 news conference held with local leaders.
The school system will provide additional information about the remainder of the school term after that meeting, he said.