Dougherty County Schools plan for students' return to campus on Aug. 3

The Dougherty County School System’s re-opening plan includes virtual learning for students and provisions to close campuses again if COVID-19 numbers spike.

ALBANY — Students in the Dougherty County School System will be able to return to classes in less than a month under a preliminary plan established for the 2020-2021 school term.

The plan also includes virtual learning for students who are uncomfortable or unable to return to campus initially due to the continued presence of COVID-19.

In a letter sent to parents last week, the school system outlined the plan, which is subject to change based on the rate of spread of the novel coronavirus in the community. Students are scheduled to return to classes, whether in-person or virtually, on Aug. .3.

“We’ve developed a plan that is based on various instructional models that will go into effect once the spread of the virus hits certain trigger levels that are set by the (Georgia) Department of Public Health,” school system officials said. “If there’s no to low spread or minimal to moderate spread, we’ll have in-person instruction with a virtual option. Our schools will re-open with new social distancing requirements as well as requirements for employees, students and guests to use personal protective equipment while in specified areas of buildings.

“To better provide for the safety of our students, employees and guests, we’re implementing rigorous cleaning and sanitizing protocols.”

This week, the school system will announce additional details about open house, transportation and meal service.

In making the decision on re-opening, the system surveyed parents and also consulted with other school systems as well as health and medical personnel.

To protect students and staff, the system is purchasing masks, face shields and desk shields. Schools also will place hand sanitizer stations on campuses and provide signs reminding students of social distancing practices.

Parents who choose to have their children participate through off-campus online learning must commit to nine weeks of that model. However, students who take that route will be allowed to return to live instruction during the nine-week period if classroom capacity allows.

If conditions, such as a resurgence of COVID-19, warrant an alteration in the plan, the school system will react.

“If there’s substantial spread of the virus, we will shift into a virtual-only model similar to what we did in the spring, but in a more deliberate and robust way,” the system said. “Unlike this past spring, with the virtual model all DCSS instructional accountability policies, including attendance and grades, will be adhered to.

“Events like open house will look extremely different from previous years. We may also start with one plan and pivot to another, depending on how the virus spreads. We urge all parents and stakeholders to pay close attention to district announcements and prepare for a school year that will be different from previous ones.”

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