Long County Schools release plan for re-opening

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 4:44 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 11:16 AM EDT
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LONG COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - UPDATE, 9/1/21: The Long County School System says it plans to resume face-to-face learning effective Monday, September 13, provided the number of positive COVID-19 cases are trending downward at that time.

The current virtual learning program for all students will continue through Friday, Sept. 10.

Parents who do not wish for their K-12 students to return to face-to-face learning on September 13 are required to complete the Long County Schools 2021-2022 K-12 Virtual Learning Application for First Semester by Thursday, September 2 at 1:00 p.m. Students who continue learning virtually after September 13 will be required to continue through the end of the semester on Friday, December 17.

Long County Schools Plan for Re-Opening The Long County School System plans to resume face-to-face learning effective...

Posted by Long County Schools on Tuesday, August 31, 2021

In an email, Long County Assistant Superintendent said “By offering an optional virtual learning program for at least the remainder of the first semester, we will be able to reduce the number of face-to-face students in our schools and allow for increased social distancing.”

The Long County School System says the only factors that could possibly change reopening plans is insufficient staffing due to positive cases or an unfavorable trend in local COVID-19 data.

WTOC pointed out to district leaders that Georgia Department of Health Data shows the two-week COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 for 5-17 year-olds in Long County is 1,645, higher than the county’s overall case rate of 1,014.

The district says masks will still only be required on buses and during transition periods, but they are encouraged in classrooms.

Virtual learning is not an option for Pre-K students in Long County. The district says Georgia Bright from the Start didn’t approve a long-term virtual option.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the Coastal Empire, several school districts have announced they’ll be switching to virtual learning. Long County School System was the first district to announce that face-to-face instruction will temporarily stop.

On Thursday, students will be learning virtually.

Long County schools held a drive-through Chromebook and materials pickup on Wednesday as the district gets ready to transition to virtual learning. Every student will have a Chromebook to use during the virtual learning period. All classes will be held on Google Meet and and Google Classroom.

Last school year, virtual learning was done through an online curriculum called Edgenuity.

Long County Superintendent David Edwards says this change means students will still be able to see their teachers, just not in-person.

Edwards hopes students will return to school after the Labor Day holiday. The district will decide by Wednesday, September 1 if all students will continue with virtual learning or if families will be given the option of returning to school. Some of the factors in that decision include COVID-19 case numbers and the rate of community spread.

Edwards says the biggest concern the district has right now, and one of the reasons why they made the switch to virtual, is how fast the virus is spreading within the school system.

“We look at the numbers in the schools. Last year, while we would see that community spread inch up, we never saw the spread in our schools. The numbers stayed low, and you couldn’t see the spread from student to spread,” he said.

Even though kids will be out of school for the next few weeks, Edwards asks parents to notify the school if their child contracts COVID-19 for their records.

WTOC spoke with the parents of Long County students about their thoughts on the district’s decision to go virtual.

Kristin Spurgeon’s three kids will spend the next few weeks learning virtually in the family’s RV, or what she is calling “The Spurgeon Mobile Classroom.” The family had to get creative after the district announced that face-to-face learning would be paused.

“I work full time. My husband works full time. Virtual learning last year was chaos for my kids,” Spurgeon said.

Spurgeon says she’s doing whatever it takes for her children to continue learning, even if it means parking their mobile classroom at her work.

She says she does have concerns with virtual learning, as she believes it will be hard for her eighth grader to focus on schoolwork, and her other two children need the social-emotional learning that happens inside a classroom.

“We’re throwing these kids’ lives for a loop,” Spurgeon said.

While Long County parents prepare for Thursday’s switch, one parent is thankful he pulled his two daughters out of the district before the school year even started.

“When I seen the numbers rising due to Delta variant and the COVID cases were rising, even though people were getting vaccination shots, I already knew,” said Nino Walker.

Walker says it isn’t a surprise the district is now having kids learn virtually. His two children are enrolled in an accredited online school and he doesn’t see them attending Long County Schools anytime soon.

“I know it’s going to be years before we see normal,” he said.

Spurgeon hopes the district will allow parents to decide what’s best for their child by Wednesday, September 1, when the district is expected to make a decision about continuing virtual learning.

“It should be left in the parent’s hands to make those decisions,” she said.

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