SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah-Chatham County Public School students remain in their virtual model as community transmission of coronavirus in Chatham County sits at its highest level since July.
The school board met Thursday to discuss the status of COVID-19 and how they compare to other area districts.
School board members say they know how challenging this time is and nothing they do will be perfect. But they discussed what would be best for them moving forward.
District officials looked at the metrics showing the three areas of interest still in the red. They also looked at other school districts in Georgia and how they are currently operating.
The information from Georgia Department of Education shows a majority of schools in-person, but the second most common status is a delayed start after the holidays; just like SCCPSS has done.
When it comes to returning to the classroom, board members discussed their concerns for staff.
A look at the district’s COVID cases shows the highest total yet of staff testing positive for the virus after they returned from holiday break before students returned. Jan. 8′s numbers showed 86 staff tested positive for COVID with 208 quarantined.
SCCPSS District 3 Board member Cornelia Hall feels this demonstrates that children shouldn’t be the biggest concern.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that if we wait for the residents of Chatham County to all comply to what they know science is telling us, these children may be grown before we can get them totally back in school. So, I think we have to start looking at this in a different way. We already have schools open four days a week with children in them, so it seems to me that the social distancing question that has to be resolved,” Hall said.
The district’s chief human resources officer says they have seen issues among the staff with social distancing and following the district’s guidelines.
They say this is a serious concern and they need people to help them.
While they didn’t make any decision on how to move forward, the board did get a look at several learning models.
They’re considering five different learning models to choose from for the second semester.
The district is recommending an expanded in-person learning option that involves splitting students into groups on alternating schedules.
Two groups will be in person for three days a week for two weeks straight then rotating to 2 days a week in person for two weeks.
This model also allows for students on an opposite schedules to partner up for collaboration.
“I am very excited about the three-two hybrid model. As the mom of two Montessori students, I’ve seen the value of peer to peer collaboration between students and I just think it is a fantastic approach to be able to reach both our students that are in the building as well as our students who are learning virtually,” said Denise R. Grabowski, District 1.
Other models include modified traditional in-person learning, elementary students learning in person while secondary students learn virtually, a half-day rotation, and a two-week rotation with a learning partner.
The board is considering choosing a learning model at their next meeting on February 3.
The district also gave an update on the number of teachers who have requested to not return to the classroom. 442 teachers in all requested to teach virtually.
Teachers returned to school buildings on January 4.
District leaders say they currently have 442 requests from teachers who do not want to return to school.
Leaders say 169 requests have been approved, 14 have been rescinded, 95 have been denied and 164 are still pending.
The district says they consider ADA and FMLA requests. That means whether the request involves a staff member with a personal disability or impairment that can be affected by COVID-19. They also look at whether the request involves a family member or if the staff member acts as a caregiver. In that instance, they will not qualify to receive money from the district and have to use some type of leave.