Toombs County heads into 2020-2021 school year with virtual, in-person learning

Toombs County heads into 2020-2021 school year with virtual, in-person learning

TOOMBS COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - In just over a week, Toombs County schools will welcome students and staff back for the 2020-2021 school year. The superintendent who says he’s confident in the district’s safety protocols and he expects to have a great year.

Controlling the environment is what Superintendent Barry Waller says he’s all about. This means, doing everything in his power to make sure students and staff feel safe during the school day.

“We’ll have a full-time nurse at every school. The last couple of years we’ve shared nurses with schools, but during these uncertain times it’s important that we have a healthcare professional,” said Waller.

This is just one part of the multi-part plan the school has devised. Other parts include morning and midday temperature checks, both on and off the bus, social distancing as much as possible, and sanitizing the buses and classrooms every day.

“One thing we put in our reopening guidelines is we’re not going to try and enforce what we can’t mandate, so we’ll have our normal class sizes,” said Waller.

This also goes hand-in-hand with masks. Students and staff won't be required to wear them, but they're encouraged.

Waller says he wanted to hear from the families and asked them to fill out a survey with what they would like for the 2020-2021 school year.

"70% of our responses came back that they wanted to come back to school."

However, those who wanted virtual are also given that opportunity.

Approximately 3,000 students attend Toombs County schools. Waller says around 300 of them have chosen to go virtual. He says some are at the elementary school level, but most of them are at the middle school and high school level.

Students who do sign up for virtual classes must commit to a semester at a time.

Lyons Upper Elementary School Principal, Tabatha Nobles says getting ready for their August 7 start date has been a lot of work.

“I know from the outside looking in a lot of people feel that ‘hey these teachers or these staff members have not really been on campus working,’ but they have. If they’ve not been here they’ve been behind devices working or meeting to try to help prepare for what’s to come,” said Nobles.

Nobles is a mother herself and says she’s confident in the school district’s safety protocol.

"If I was not confident in our ability to take care of these kids and provide for them, I wouldn't be sending my own."

If a student does run a fever or has COVID-19 symptoms they will be put in isolation at the school until they can get picked up. Waller says they can return to school after being symptom-free for 48 hours or if they have a doctor’s note.

“We’re always trying to prepare for what might come next,” said Nobles.

School officials say if school shuts down again they will be ready to tackle virtual learning head-on.

“We asked the question of how many have home internet or devices and a large majority do have access. However, for those that don’t we will have the opportunity to provide a device and/or a hot-spot to gain access,” said Waller.

Waller says there will not be any after school childcare programs. The Georgia High School Association will make the call on sports.

Principal Nobles says while school may look a lot different this year, teachers and staff still have the same goal in mind.

“We’re here because we enjoy watching kids grow and working together and watching that progress that is made. So, I just really believe that no matter what’s thrown our way we’re going to get that satisfaction of watching these kids grow.”

In-person learning starts on Aug. 7. Virtual learning will begin the following week on Aug. 14.

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