MCINTOSH COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The clock is ticking, as school districts in Georgia are busy preparing for the first day of school.
McIntosh County Schools opens its doors to students on August 24. The start date was pushed back from August 10, due to surrounding school districts’ start dates and rising COVID-19 cases in surrounding areas.
“We’re not taking this in a cavalier approach,” said. Superintendent Dr. Jim Pulos. “We understand the seriousness of it. We also understand the importance of our students returning to school.”
According to the district, 80-percent of McIntosh County students will return for face-to-face instruction, such as Kaycie Ragan’s two kids.
“My kids are ready to go back to school,” Ragan said.
She admitted that she has some fears and concerns.
“Because there’s not going to be no social distancing,” she explained. “They teach them to line up in the hallway. There’s no six feet apart.”
Superintendent Pulos wants to assure parents the district is taking extra precautions for those who will be back in the school building.
Safety protocols start once a student gets on the bus -- masks are required and temperatures will be checked. At the front of the school, those dropped off by a parent will also get a temperature check, and every student will be asked screening questions.
“We’ll ask them certain questions to see whether or not they have been sick or a high-temperature, or anyone in the family. Then they’ll be spaced out and enter the building,” Pulos said.
Face coverings are required in the hallway during passing periods.
Pulos said it’s up to the teacher if students will wear one in the classroom. Teachers will enforce social distancing, as practically as they can -- inside the classroom and at lunch.
“It’s very difficult sometimes to be able to separate all the time with Pre-K,” the superintendent said. “You got to make sure you’re doing things right.”
McIntosh County Schools is working closely with the Georgia Department of Health, especially in the event a student, teacher or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.
According to Pulos, after talking with Dr. Lawton Davis with DPH, the protocol depends on the case.
“Just because you have a possibility of one case of maybe a student, doesn’t mean you shut the whole school down,” he explained. “You have to go and figure out what was the exposure of that student to somebody else, at what time, and etcetera.”
For the 20-percent of students learning virtually, the district wants to stress it will not be similar to the distance learning plan implemented when schools closed in March.
According to curriculum director Shelly Sheets, it’s a mix of teacher-made instructional videos and an online learning platform, but it will be more structured.
“The parents and the student will have to have the discipline to make sure they’re going through and continue their work each and every day,” said Pulos.
McIntosh County teachers will serve more as facilitators.
“The teachers really aren’t going to be available in live time, and so they will be monitoring when students are on there, looking at the time they’re on there, looking at their assignments, posting assignments,” said Sheets. “They will be checking Google Classrooms everyday, trying to answer questions.”
Pulos said the district purchased 900 Chromebooks, if there were to be another mandatory school shutdown. The district would then move to virtual learning.
“It can change tomorrow,” said Pulos. “We will adjust as necessary.”