LIBERTY COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s back to school come August 13 for students in Liberty County.
“We cannot afford not to educate our children,” said Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry. “We cannot put them in harm’s way either.”
The 2020-21 school year will look different for the Liberty County School System.
District leaders originally planned to give parents and students the option for in-person learning, or virtual. A parent survey showed 70-percent of parents planned to send their student back to the classroom, while 30-percent preferred online learning, according to the district.
“Considering what’s going on, as far as the data and coronavirus and the spread and the people that’s testing positive, it was clear to us in Liberty County that we did not need to bring our students back,” said Dr. Perry.
The district decided its digital learning plan would be the safest option for students, as there were still many questions about the feasibility of sending students back.
“How do you social distance on a bus? How do you do it in the classrooms?” asked Perry. ”We didn’t really feel safe bringing back half of our students.”
It’s a decision high school parent Patrick Underwood and his son know wasn’t easy for the district to make, but are thankful for.
“I was actually glad. I’m glad they decided to go to virtual, especially with the Coronavirus going around,” said Underwood.
“That can lead to death and sickness, and you don’t want that,” said 11th grader Patrick Underwood III. “It’s a safety precaution and I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
The district approved a $5.8 million purchase of iPads, so that each student has one for virtual learning. The district also purchased hot spots for those who need WiFi. Teachers and students will use the online learning platform, Canvas. Every day by 8:30 a.m., students will know their class agenda and assignments for the day.
“There are some times that they will be expected, at very specific times, to log in for that whole group instruction or maybe a scheduled small group instruction or some individual assistance, but there will be some flexibility throughout the course of the day,” said Susan Avant, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.
According to Avant, virtual learning will require more involvement from parents and more accountability from students.
For Underwood, he said he enjoys virtual learning, and shared a few tips for any families that might be struggling.
“I will make a schedule, similar to school so you could adapt to it,” he said. “If you need to, I would suggest the parents, if you can get it, then I would go even further and look at more stuff online.”
Teachers will report to school once a week, and are expected to communicate with students and parents daily, plus have virtual office hours from 3-4 p.m. Administrators are also available to families.
“We are looking for is that when we have questions that come into the schools or come into the district office that we respond to those in a timely manner,” said deputy superintendent Dr. Zheadric Barbra.
Liberty County students moved to virtual learning at the end of March, following the state’s mandatory school closures. Superintendent Perry said, by continuing with virtual learning this upcoming school year, it puts the district in a good position if there were to be another school shutdown.
“Nothing is going to stop us from educating our children here in Liberty County,” he said.
District leaders agreed and said this is the most challenging time be in education, but there is a silver lining, especially for students.
“This is the moment to really realize that my education belongs to me,” said Dr. Barba.
He hopes students use this time of change to grow into their best selves.
“I’m going to do my best at this particular time, in this particular environment,” Barbra said.
The district will continue providing meals for students. Breakfast and lunch meals will be provided at each school site from 8-10 a.m. for pick up on Mondays. Students will receive meals for five days based on their application and/or pay status. If students are not able to pick up meals, transportation will be provided to deliver meals to their bus stop. Parents must indicate on the “Meal Request Form” if delivery is required.
The district has posted a guide with more information about the 2020-21 school year on its website.
Dr. Perry will hold virtual parent forums to answer questions about the upcoming school year. Sign up for a forum by clicking here.
According to the school system, a link to the meeting will be sent to you via email the day prior.