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Baldwin County Schools announces school year to start August 10

The original start date was August 3, but the board approved a recommendation to delay so staff and faculty could prepare.
Credit: WMAZ

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ga. — The Baldwin County School District announced their plans to delay the start of the 2020-2021 school year until Monday, August 10.

According to a news release from the school district Thursday night, the original start date was August 3, but the board approved a recommendation to delay the start of school in order to help faculty and staff prepare for the implementation of new safety protocols based on the Centers for Disease Control's recommendations, and guidance from the Georgia Department of Education, and the Department of Public Health.

The release also says the new date allows faculty and staff to "participate in professional learning focused on the social emotional-learning needs of students and staff, curriculum and instruction, and teaching in a remote learning environment." 

Baldwin County School Superintendent Noris Price said, “As we started this work, it became clear that developing a plan would be a collaborative effort to choose the safest and best option to start the new school year. We focused on developing a plan around three scenarios: a traditional schedule with additional safety precautions in place, a hybrid schedule with alternating in-person days for students and a remote learning option.” 

The board of education says they formed a task force that consisted of teachers, school and district-based staff, parents, business leaders, and others in the community to determine the safest way to reopen their schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parents will be given the option to choose between virtual or in-person "instructional models"  An online form will be provided and must be completed by Friday, July 17.

The school board detailed the guidelines for the instructional models:

•    Parents will have the option of choosing traditional in-person instruction (a regular Monday through Friday schedule) or remote learning for their children.

•    Georgia Standards of Excellence and the BCSD curriculum resources will be utilized during teaching and learning.

•    Social emotional learning will be incorporated into the curriculum to support the needs of the whole-child.

•    A structured schedule that allows flexibility will be followed as we transition between instructional models.

•    Accountability measures and expectations will be established to maximize learning.

•    Professional learning will be provided to address the learning tools and instructional methods of remote learning for students, staff, and parents.

•    For parents/guardians choosing remote learning for their child/children, students in grades K-8 must commit to the remote learning model for a grading period or the entire semester for high school students.

•    Baldwin Online Academy will be extending its normal operations to include students and families who are interested in a temporary enrollment in the program as well as a full year commitment. 

•    Depending on the level of increased spread, a system-wide remote learning model may be implemented.

For those students who will be starting the new school year with traditional in-person instruction, the Baldwin County School District has prepared a safe return to school campuses through a number of protocols and procedures that will be implemented to maintain the safety and well-being of all students and employees.

Below is a list of protocols and safety measures that will be put into place to ensure a safe start to the 2020-2021 school year.

Enhanced Safety Measures

•    Students and staff are required to wear masks/face coverings. CDC recognizes that wearing cloth face coverings may not be possible in every situation or for some individuals. In some situations, wearing a cloth face covering may exacerbate a physical or mental health condition, lead to a medical emergency, or introduce significant safety concerns. Adaptations and alternatives will be considered whenever possible to increase the feasibility of wearing a cloth face covering or to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading if it is not possible to wear one.

•    Faculty, staff and students are required to check their temperature before coming to school. Staff and students are confirming by their presence on school grounds they do not have a fever above 100.3 or any symptoms of illness. In addition, temperature checks for employees and students will be conducted at each school. 

•    Students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms or a temperature of 100.4 or higher will be isolated immediately and sent home.

•    Specific action steps for how the school will respond to positive COVID-19 cases will be implemented. These action steps are still in development.

•    All bus drivers as well as students riding the bus will be required to wear masks/face coverings.

•    Hand sanitizer for students and drivers will be available.

•    Clean and disinfect buses daily after morning and afternoon routes.

•    No field trips.

•    Desks will be spaced out to improve social distancing in classrooms.

•    Reductions in the intermingling of groups (to the extent possible).

•    Social distancing protocols in classrooms and other spaces (to the extent possible).

•    High traffic areas and ”touch points” will be continually sanitized with daily cleaning.  

•    The school district has purchased disinfecting products known to be effective for use against COVID-19.

•    Custodians adhere to CDC guidelines on cleaning and using approved chemicals to fight the spread of COVID-19.  

•    Ventilation systems will be frequently monitored for proper operation.

•    Students are expected to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol throughout the school day.

•    Students will eat breakfast/lunch in classrooms.

•    Students wash hands before and after meals.

•    CDC-designed signage will be displayed prominently throughout buildings to reinforce healthy hygiene and expected school and workplace behaviors.

•    There will be restricted use of water fountains and students are encouraged to use water bottles.

•    Number of visitors allowed in school buildings will be restricted & temperatures will be taken before entry. Visitors must wear protective masks before entering the building.

•    Physical barriers placed in select locations in school buildings to protect against the spread of the virus.

•    Athletics and activities following the guidance from the Georgia High School Association (GHSA).

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