TATTNALL COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The countdown is on with just days until Tattnall County students head back to the classroom for the 2020-2021 school year.
It's no secret that many, if not all, school leaders have mixed emotions about starting a new school year in the middle of a pandemic.
“I’m nervous a little bit but I know that I trust in the Lord to have me and I also trust in these folks to make the best decision for us and know that whatever they do will be in our best interest,” 6th grade teacher Stacy Todd said.
When you factor in 3,400 students and give them all the option of virtual or in-person learning, the challenge is not knowing what you'll get.
“We have about 700 students whose parents have chosen virtual learning online and that would leave about 2,700 who will be face-to-face,” Superintendent Dr. Gina Williams said.
Dr. Williams said that decision alone wasn't hard but figuring out how to manage both was the challenge. She said when it comes to students whose parents chose the traditional in-person option, the next step was figuring out how to handle bus transportation.
“I believe some parents will choose to bring their children to school rather than put them on the bus and that’s the piece we just don’t yet know. Our buses are full in a normal year. Our drivers will have masks or shields to protect them,” Dr. Williams said.
She said if you factor out the students who will be learning virtually who would typically ride the bus, that alone eliminates students coming in contact with each other.
Temperatures will be taken before and after students get on and off the bus, bus drivers will also be required to sanitize the bus before and after having a busload of students.
Dr. Williams said right now there is no mask mandate, only a recommendation, but if there's a case where someone catches the virus or has symptoms, they will adjust accordingly.
“Is it a widespread thing that we need to shut down one wing, one classroom? We talked about if it happens in Glennville, do we shut the Glennville schools to do a thorough cleaning but let the others continue to go,” Dr. Williams said.
She says at the high school level, this will be the first year of block scheduling going from seven periods to four, which will cut down on the number of class changes.
Although there is still a lot of uncertainty teachers and faculty say, this is a new experience for everyone and they are prepared to make adjustments along the way.
“Had to get used to saying I don’t yet. As a principal and a leader you want to have all the answers and you want to support your people, but this year I had to really learn to just be able to say I don’t know and be flexible and go with it,” North Tattnall Middle School Principal Donny Sikes said.
Through it all, school leaders are confident in their safety protocols and are hopeful they will make it through the year successfully.
"My grandson will be there on day one in class and so I feel like that speaks to my level of confidence in what we're doing is that I'm willing for him to go back and be in the classroom."
Dr. Williams said if there is another mandatory shutdown, they will be more prepared for virtual learning. They have packets prepared to deliver along with meals.
For students starting the year online, meals will also be offered.
The first day of school is slated for Aug. 10.