Lowndes County, along with several other schools in the South Georgia region, will be starting school during the second week of August.
For people in the region, the first day of school also comes with a new set of safety procedures aimed at keeping kids safe from COVID-19.
Here's five changes every Lowndes County parent should be aware of before sending their kids back to school:
1) LEARNING OPTIONS
By now, parents should have selected between two options: Face-to-face instruction or virtual learning through Google Meets
For face-to-face instruction, each student (Grades 2 - 12) will have access to a system-issued Chromebook.
Elementary school students must commit to this model for nine weeks at a time. Middle school students and high school students must commit to this model for a full semester.
If schools are forced to close, all traditional option students will remain at home to learn remotely via Google Meets. Parents must also complete Caredox registration as soon as possible.
For virtual learning, instruction will be facilitated by a teacher everyday and students will be expected to log in and participate daily.
Each student will have access to a system-issued Chromebook, if requested at virtual registration. However, the district says that it is the parent's responsibility to ensure access to a reliable internet connection on a daily basis.
Elementary school students must commit to this model for nine weeks at a time. Middle school students and high school students must commit to this model for a full semester. Pre-K students are not eligible for the virtual learning option.
2) MASKS ARE REQUIRED
Lowndes County Schools' Return to School Plan makes it clear: All students and staff must wear a face covering or a mask.
Make sure that your student's mask covers both the nose and mouth when worn. The district suggests attaching your child's face covering to a lanyard to help them both keep up with the mask and reduce cross contamination.
If allowed to come on school premises, visitors will also be required to wear a mask/face covering and will have his/her temperature scanned and be asked several screening questions prior to entry.
3) SOCIAL DISTANCING
Entry and exit points at Lowndes County Schools are going to look a little different as school officials look to maximize social distancing. Among some of the changes to expect:
- Schools will work with their specific layouts to structure crowd flow and reduce clustering or crowding in hallways during transitions and in morning/afternoon release
- Designated flow paths and signage to control the flow of foot traffic in buildings will be developed and applied within the schools
- Staff will be present to monitor arrival and dismissal to discourage congregating and encourage students to go straight from a vehicle to their classrooms and vice-versa
Schools may also place physical barriers such as plexiglass for protection at reception desks, cafeteria kiosks, and similar areas.
Desks and seating areas will be arranged in classrooms to maximize space between students and students will also face the same direction as much as possible. Whenever possible, students will be kept in small groups with the same staff to limit exposure to others.
Volunteers will not be allowed in classrooms until further notice though the district says some visitors may be pre-approved by the school principal for "extreme circumstances only." In general, outside visitors to schools will be limited or not allowed based on community spread.
3) DAILY HEALTH SCREENINGS / WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE GETS SICK?
Staff and students are required to self-monitor for symptoms using the COVID-19 Self Screening Questions below. Additional health screenings, including temperature checks, may occur in the building as directed by the principal or school nurse.
If a student gets sick, they will be sent to the school nurse clinic. If the student havs COVID-19 like symptoms, the student will be provided a mask if they do not have one and isolated from other students in the clinic for routine reasons (e.g. medication, first aid, or other regular treatments).
Parents will be expected to come pick up their sick child and are required to seek medical treatment and follow the Department of Public Health guidance prior to returning to school. If warranted, a COVID-19 test is required.
Parents can self-report positive tests or potential exposure with this form.
In the event of an exposure, custodial staff will also isolate and deep clean impacted classrooms and spaces. In some cases, facilities or portions of facilities will be closed and deep clean and sanitize impacted classrooms and areas. Closure may be for a period up to 14 days.
When cases of COVID-19, for students or staff, are confirmed, the system will work with local health authorities to determine appropriate response. That response may include the following actions:
- LCS will notify local public health immediately of any positive case of COVID-19 while maintaining confidentiality, as required under HIPPA, FERPA and state law related to privacy of educational records.
- LCS will notify student’s parents, staff, and teachers who have been potentially exposed of any positive case of COVID-19 while maintaining confidentiality, as required under FERPA.
- LCS will inform those who have had close contact to a person diagnosed with COVID 19 to stay home and follow state DPH guidance.
- Recommendations may include quarantine of the individual, quarantine of a specific classroom or grade level, and in extreme circumstances may result in the entire school returning to Virtual Learning for some period depending on the guidance from Department of Public Health. Refer to the Return to School Guide
4) BUS RIDES
It is required that all students and staff wear a face mask or face covering while riding the bus to and from school. All riders will be assigned seats.
However, in an effort to reduce the number of students on a bus, parents are encouraged to transport their students to and from school when possible.
According to the district's plan, buses will be cleaned between the morning and the afternoon routes each day and will be wiped down with disinfecting wipes between routes. For confirmed COVID-19 cases, buses will be taken out of service to be disinfected.
To maximize air circulation, roof hatches will be opened (weather permitting). If a child gets sick during the day, they may not ride the bus home.
The following practices may be implemented across the district:
- Schools will provide the opportunity for hand washing or sanitizer before eating.
- Various mitigation measures will be used as much as possible, including: ○ Physical distancing at tables between students ○ Classes eating together with distance between classes ○ Sitting on one side of the table, with students all facing the same direction ○ Staggered meal times to allow more time between groups ○ Additional cleaning and sanitizing of tables and trays between groups
- No self-serve for any items (including condiments) will be permitted. Cafeteria staff will place all items on serving trays.
- Students will continue to have food choices, but they will be limited.
- Students will pick up breakfast or lunch and return to the classroom or other specified areas.
- All food from breakfast and lunch eaten in classrooms will be placed in heavy duty trash bags and put in the hallway after each meal.
- Schools may consider the following: required eating in classrooms, spaced serving lines, disposable plates and utensils, etc.
No visitors will be allowed in cafeterias until further notice.
7) OTHER SCHOOL EVENTS
Recess will still be in place for students at Lowndes County Schools, though schools may modify recess in some ways to reduce mixing of classes and during rainy weather. Items, such as balls, will not be shared at recess.
Physical field trips are canceled until further notice but virtual events such as field trips, meetings, assemblies, and performances will be utilized when possible. The district says school assemblies and other events involving large numbers of students, staff, or visitors will be heavily modified or canceled if deemed non-essential.
All meetings with parents (Student Support Team, Section 504, Individualized Education Plan) will be conducted virtually, when possible. Those that must be in-person will be scheduled and planned on an appointment basis.
For a full document detailing Lowndes County Schools' reopening plan, click here.