Masks required as students, staff start the new school year in Liberty County

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 5:01 AM EDT
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LIBERTY CO., Ga. (WTOC) - UPDATE: A warm, energetic welcome as Liberty County students started their first day of the new school year.

“Our babies are back! I’m excited that our kids are back, and we have a lot of great things in store,” Snelson Golden Middle School Principal Anthony Johnson said. “We came in contact with a few parents that were just a little bit nervous.”

But district and school staff say they assured parents safety is the priority, handing out masks and taking temperatures as students arrived.

“We know we got to be careful. We know we’ve got to try to social distance as much as we can,” Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry said.

One high school senior, who is fully vaccinated, says she’s thankful the district put in a mask requirement to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I still wear my mask everywhere. Even though I’m vaccinated, I can carry it, and I can give it to somebody,” senior Savannah Childs said.

The superintendent says this is a way to keep students and staff safe, in order for face-to-face instruction to happen.

“We know we have learning loss already based on the students who took the GMAS. We can already see that we’re going to have some ground to make up,” Dr. Perry said.

Dr. Perry says about 9,200 students are back in the classrooms, while a small number are virtual due to medical conditions.

Could the district go back to virtual learning? Dr. Perry says it’s a conversation the district is already having.

“If the signs of the coronavirus get worse, then we have to look at that,” he said.

PREVIOUS STORY: Some school districts in the Coastal Empire are making masks mandatory for the new school year.

One of those districts requiring all staff and students to wear a mask is Liberty County.

Last year, there were about 50-percent of students virtual and about 50-percent in-person. This year, 100-percent of students in Liberty County will be in-person learning.

Since many students were not in the building full-time last year, district leaders say this first week is to make sure all staff and students feel relaxed and safe to be back.

Masks will be required throughout the school day for anyone in the building. They will sanitize the school and are encouraging everyone to practice the three W’s: wash your hands, wear a mask, and watch your distance.

“We are so excited about this upcoming school year. We know there will be challenges but we are excited to have all of our scholars back. Our teachers have been planning over the summer, our administrators have been planning over the summer and we are just excited about it,” said Dr. Franklin Perry, Liberty County Superintendent.

The school year kicks off Tuesday morning and the plan will be five days a week of in-person learning for all students.

District leaders say they have confidence in their teachers to help the students with learning loss and move forward. There will be after school and Saturday activities to help kids get caught up, but they hope to get as much possible done in the classroom.

Superintendent Perry says he knows that there will be challenges this year but he says after the resilience the students showed last year, he is confident they will bounce back.

“We knew they were dealing with certain things, with families, loss of family members, but they still stuck with us and we made it through so that is the encouraging piece as we go into next year knowing how all of our people work together is very encouraging because that is what we are going to need as we start this new year,” said Dr. Perry.

The school district will follow contact tracing protocol for any positive cases in the school. They want to thank parents for being understanding of the changes and ask for their continued patience as protocols could still change during the year.

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