Richmond County school leaders break down back to school plan, again

Education

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Ahead of starting school next month, Richmond County School System leaders broke down how face to face and virtual learning will work.

School starts September 8 and district leaders wanted to make sure that parents and students understand the intricate details of all education models this school year.

Associate Superintendent of Academic Services Malinda Cobb was among a small group explaining how the district implemented its reopening plan following its closure due to COVID-19.

“Each school is basically hosting their own online students and face to face being taught by teachers there at that school,” she said.

It’s the same instruction on different platforms to keep everyone safe. That’s the plan for students in Richmond County. Leaders broke down how students on all three levels, elementary, middle and high school, will learn.

Cobb said, “We will be providing K-12 instruction through Canvas, that is our learning management system, and also using Microsoft Teams.”

Here’s how it will work. Elementary students in Pre-K through grade 5 who are face to face follow a regular bell schedule with courses throughout the day. Their online classmates get the same classes in two hour blocks morning or afternoon with the opposite part of the day to learn on their own or take advantage of built in tutoring time Monday through Thursday.

Middle and high school students face to face have class periods broken down by days of the week, with first and second period classes meeting on Mondays and so forth until Thursday. Online attendees mimic the alternating days with all students having independent work time. Teacher tutoring time is available during independent work time and all day Friday.

“Consider purchasing a microphone headset,” Cobb added. “And that can be really important if you have multiple children. Why is that? Noise cancellation just to be able to allow them to have their own private space.”

Teachers will publish course work two weeks out for the identified 10 percent of students without internet access. The on boarding system is also mobile friendly. Parents sending kids off to school will need to check their child’s temperature before they leave home and have social distancing and mask wearing talks, according to Deputy Superintendent Matthew Priester. He also said students will have assigned bus seats and will be fed breakfast and lunch.

Both teachers and students will be required to have a mask on all day, especially in high contact areas such as hallways. That is spelled out in the face to face instructional video here.

“Arrive with some patience,” Priester stressed. “The Face to Face model that we’re going to be using in the COVID-19 environment is not the Face to Face model that we used last year.”

“We are strictly following the feedback and guidance of our path to recovery documents from the DOE, which include the CDC and the DPH. We have studied them. We have planned using those and best practices are embedded there so we know we are ready,” said LaMonica Hillman, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services. She emphasized to NewsChannel 6 that the district has been looking at data from the CDC, DPH and DOE and even watching other districts that returned to school before Richmond County.

Hillman said letters will be sent home to parents of students who came in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. She appealed to parents that they simply follow instructions in the letter, including calling the COVID-19 hotline before rushing to social media with the letter. She said school areas will be closed if there is an outbreak, such as closing down classrooms. And the district is tracking attendance and will close schools if infection rises to 10 percent. Parents, however, are encouraged to keep their kids home if they are sick. The usual sick letters that document absence will not go out to help parents feel comfortable about keeping kids home when ill. A COVID-19 Point of Contact and a nurse will be available at each school. They will log symptoms and keep a school clinic.

The district is also working with community partners such as daycares and the Family Y, upon their request, to help students with virtual learning up to 5th grade. Those entities wanted to make sure they had the technology to assist kids who chose to learn online. RCSS will not issue technology to community partners. Cobb said this partnership is welcomed since more than 18,000 students are virtual learners and the district is unable to supply technology in the form of laptops and wireless connections to each requesting family.

Cobb is encouraging parents to continue the same routine with kids too. She said parents should still attend their child’s school open house, which runs August 31 – September 4. She said parents should also make sure kids wear school clothing, not pajamas, online. And even take first day of school pictures complete with signs. She added that parents should even keep the same after school activities they have already established.

While school starts September 8, the school board will meet September 1 to discuss more back to school options.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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