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'We're much more prepared now more than ever:' Houston County Schools' expectations for 2nd semester

Deputy Superintendent Cynthia Flescher says they're expecting about 2300 more students to return in-person in January, making it close to 25,000 in total.

HOUSTON COUNTY, Ga. — Houston County students will start their Christmas Break on Friday while the district looks ahead at plans for the second semester.

Chris Young has six children attending four different Houston County Schools who went back to school during the pandemic.

"There were certainly questions, concerns that I had, worries, how it would turn out, how it would affect my kids and then how it would affect our family," Young said.

He felt comfortable sending them back to school in-person.

"We were very well aware that everything was going to be as safe as possible, that there wasn't going to be another place safer to go for our kids," he said.

Deputy Superintendent Cynthia Flesher says putting safety guidelines in place was a strength in their reopening plans.

They learned from the challenges, like tracking down students who didn't return after the switch to remote learning.

"We had our social workers assist with trying to track these down because it was several hundred, I want to think it was about 700 students that we needed to track down, and we were able to track down just about every one," Flesher said.

With the purchase of about 8,000 new Chromebooks and providing teachers with training for online platforms, Flesher says virtual learning will improve.

"We definitely feel like we're much more prepared now more than ever, if we should ever have to go through another school closure or anything, that all of our teachers have a much better understanding about the use of Google Classroom," she said.

Communication on COVID-19 exposures will continue to be at the forefront. Young praised the district's efforts to keep him informed when his child was exposed.

"The principal reached out himself, communicated specifically and directly with me just to make sure that everything was okay," Young said.

"We'll just continue to work very hard to keep our students safe, that's our number one priority," Flesher said.

The district expects about 2,300 more students to return in person in January, bringing it to about 25,000, or 80%, of the total student population back on campus.

Flesher says they'll continue to follow the same COVID-19 prevention practices as they did this first semester. 

Students and staff will continue to wear masks and social distance when they return in January.