SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah-Chatham school leaders say their decision to start the year virtually was based on the amount of COVID-19 in our community.
During their board meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett said the data drives their dates.
“Based on the number of positive cases that we have in our community, the number or hospitalizations and the community, the cumulative numbers of positive cases we see that we’re going to be involved in virtual learning for probably longer than we had hoped,” she continued.
She went on to explain what criteria they are looking at to make the decision. They're considering community transmission rates, daily case rate, CDC phased gating criteria, and they're even looking at a possible phased approach based on grade level.
Superintendent Levett said right now the communities daily case rates are high meaning it’s more likely for a person to be exposed to COVID-19.
A high number is anything above 25 and she says local data shows our community exceeds that.
“Our daily case rate is 37.2 and you’ll remember that is higher than we needed to be,” explained Dr. Ann Levett, SCCPSS Superintendent, during Wednesday’s virtual board meeting. “We are still in the red zone. If you look at this chart, you’ll see in June we were in the yellow zone. June 15th we were at 4.2, June 22nd we’re at 17.9 and then we start moving up and now we’re at 37.2. So, know that if we work together as a community, we’ll be able to get those numbers down.”
Dr Levett did say during the meeting the decision to return face-to-face will take into account not only the data and a phased approach, but their parent survey and task force input.
With the current data still signaling virtual learning, the SCCPSS board also voted to adjust how students would be graded in the new setting.
The change in grading alters the weighted percentages of assessment and assignments depending on a student’s grade level making classwork/homework worth more of a child’s grade than testing.
The change did draw a lot of discussion for board members as some felt it minimized the online experience, while others felt it was needed in light of the shift due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ultimately the vote passed 7-2, but they did make an amendment that it will be in effect for just the first semester.
“I just think this rewards the busy work and discounts the substantive learning and assessment that is critical to making sure our students have what they need…” said Julie Wade, SCCPSS Board Member. “I just feel like it’s unnecessary and it’s going to allow for greater grade manipulation and it really discounts the value of online learning.”
“I feel that if our teachers had had many months to train, to teach in this new format and all of them felt 100% at the top of their game, our students were all very conversed with how to use this technology then yes we could just move along merrily as usual,” explained Cornelia Hall, SCCPSS Board Member. “But the fact that all of this is so brand new to so many of us parents, teachers, and students I think that this gives a little leeway for us to respond to the situation that we’re in right now.”
The grading changes will be in effect just for the first semester. Board members plan to readdress this grading policy after that depending on how school continues in the new year.
At Wednesday’s meeting the board also voted to unanimously change the graduation requirements which will suspend completion of community service and satisfying units of credit beyond state requirements due to COVID-19.
Savannah-Chatham students will begin their classes for the 2020-2021 school year online next Wednesday, Aug. 19.