WAYNE COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The first day of school is right around the corner for Georgia students.
The Wayne County School System initially planned to send students back to the classroom on Aug. 10, but that was pushed back to Aug. 24 after a special school board meeting.
Student belongings still hang in the empty hallways at Jesup Elementary, after Georgia Governor Brian Kemp ordered a mandatory school closure back in March. The hallways and classrooms will soon be filled with students and teachers for the 2020-21 school year.
“It’s really tough to expect teachers to teach 20 kids in a classroom all day long, and then go home in the evening and teach that same quality, that same rigor to kids at home,” said Reggie Burgess, 6th-12th director of curriculum and instruction.
He said administrators and the school board were only considering in-person learning or online learning, not a combination for the new school year.
According to a stakeholder survey, around 50 percent favored sending students back to school while following safety precautions - this includes on the bus, where drivers and students are required to wear a face covering.
“They’ll sanitize and clean the buses twice daily and air the buses out while they’re not in use,” said Burgess.
The district is asking parents, if they can, to drive their child to school.
“Just to free up more spaces on the bus,” he said. “Because that is a big concern, trying to keep kids a safe distance apart.”
The district is also requiring face coverings at each school building, and has plans to practice social distancing, such as meal time.
“Students in Pre-K through second grade will go to the cafeteria and eat breakfast there, and then their teachers will take them to the classrooms,” Burgess explained. “Students in grades three through 12 will go straight to their classrooms, they’ll get a grab-and-go breakfast, eat in the classrooms and stay there.”
Social distancing will also be practiced during classroom changes at the high school.
“We’re asking them, when they do make switches to just stagger the dismissal times so you have a limited amount of students in the hallway,” said Burgess.
Tonya Harrell is the mom of Lee Harrell, an incoming senior at Wayne County High School. Lee has autism, and his mom said he needs interaction with teachers and staff. She said she’s eager to get Lee back inside the classroom and feels the district is taking the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe.
“As long as everybody does what they’re supposed to do and abide by the rules, I think it’ll be fine,” said Harrell.
While the district isn’t requiring student temperature checks, staff is being asked to self-monitor, and the district is prepared if someone were to test positive for COVID-19.
“We will let folks know,” said Burgess. “If a case does come up where we have to isolate a small group or even a class. It may be that group could do virtual learning for the time that they need to be out but come right back after everyone’s okay.”
The district is offering virtual learning only to those students who have a medical condition, verified by a doctor, that’d prevent them from attending school safely.
Virtual learning will also be implemented, if there were to be another school shutdown.