Coweta County Schools to begin with Virtual, Remote Learning on Aug. 13


From Coweta County Schools Press Release

In response to significantly rising local transmission rates of COVID-19 throughout July, the Coweta County School System will start the school year with virtual and remote learning for all students.

The goal for the school system’s start of year plan will be to return students to face-to-face instruction as quickly as possible, while maintaining optional online virtual learning for students as well.  Coweta County’s school year will begin for students Thursday, August 13.  Most Coweta County school system employees return to schools on August 3.

Thursday’s Georgia Department of Public Health numbers of COVID-19 cases in Coweta County were 608 during the month of July, just shy of the total amount (667) for months of March, April, May and June combined. All total, Coweta County has 1,275 cumulative cases with 18 deaths and 87 hospitalizations as of July 30.

The Board of Education and Superintendent Evan Horton discussed the state of Coweta County’s COVID-19 rates at yesterday’s called Board of Education meeting.  The Board approved Superintendent Horton’s recommendation to start the school year with virtual and remote instruction for all students through at least September 4, and authorized him to reassess public health data and conditions in late August to determine if it is safe to resume face-to-face instruction for students as early as September 8.

Horton will continue to monitor local health data, with the goal to “return as safely and as fast as possible to face-to-face instruction in our schools,” he said.  Until the significant local spread of COVID-19 is reduced, however, Horton said that “I cannot risk the safety of our students and staff.”

Superintendent Horton’s presentation for the July 30 meeting can be found here.  A recording of the meeting can be found on YouTube at Coweta County School Board Meeting – 07/30/2020 (the meeting begins at minute 43:00 of the recording).

Data about Coweta County’s current and recent COVID-19 transmission levels was shared by the Georgia Department of Community Health officials at the meeting.  Transmission rates of the disease began to show significant rises beginning in June, and crossed the threshold into what the DPH officials described as “Substantial Uncontrolled” transmission by late June and July.  DPH epidemiologists noted that current spread rates in Coweta County are currently expected to continue climbing into late August.

Horton noted that the school system’s plan to return to face-to-face instruction August 13 was premised on Coweta County remaining a county of low to moderate spread of Covid-19, which was the case in June.  In addition to rising local transmission and case rates, hospitalizations in Coweta County have increased throughout July as well.

Horton said that school system employees would still return on August 3, to prepare to begin instruction on August 13.  “It is important to begin teaching and learning in some form,” he said.

Online instruction for students will look very different from what parents saw in March through May, when the closure of schools shifted faculty into “crisis teaching,” Horton said.

While the school system monitors Coweta’s transmission and case rates, online instruction will shift to the school system’s new Empower online platform for all students.  Student instruction will be led by classroom teachers on the platform, using Google Classroom, and will follow a combination of live instruction, online student work, and the ability for teachers and students to interact each day.  On the platform:

  • Students will be able to take the courses that they were scheduled for as if they were in a face-to-face model.
  • Students will be assigned to a Coweta classroom teacher that teaches at their assigned school.
  • Students will remain connected to their base schools.
  • A student’s daily schedule will resemble the schedule that they would follow when they return to face-to-face instruction.  Students will receive direct instruction which will also be recorded for viewing later if needed.  Students will receive assignments that they will complete on their own.
  • Students who receive specialized supports (including special education services and IEPs) will continue to have these opportunities.
  • Instruction will also incorporate specials and Connections classes for students.

Even after the local conditions allow for a return to face-to-face instruction, Empower will remain as a continuing platform for parents who signed up for the option earlier in July, and for parents who choose to remain on the system going forward. Additional courses are being added to the program.

Horton said that the school system will shift to help students and households address technology issues during the online opening.  All students, including Kindergarten through 3rd grade students, will have assigned system Chromebooks, and the school system is working to provide additional wifi hotspots and boosters for families who have difficulty with internet access.

The school system will also provide physical materials for remote learning for students if internet access cannot be established, for pick-up or delivery by school system transportation staff as necessary.  School nutrition will also provide school lunches, also for pick-up or site delivery as needed during the school system’s online/remote opening.

The goal of the online and remote learning approach is to keep students in their expected classes and working with their school-based teachers, to allow for a seamless transition back to face-to-face learning for all parents who opt for it, said Horton.

Depending on evolving community conditions, Horton said that the transition back to in-school instruction may take a variety of approaches, including a full return or the interim use of a hybrid instructional approach as conditions require.

A hybrid approach, would divide students into half cohorts (by last name, for example) who could attend school on alternating days, in the building on half of the days and at home the other half.  The approach would allow for greater social distancing, particularly in middle and high schools.  While the approach could be used in elementary schools, Horton said the preference would be to return Kindergarten through 5th grade students back to school for daily  face-to-face instruction as soon as conditions allow.

The school system is also continuing to follow guidance and refine the school system’s protocols for face-to face instruction, in an attempt to return to in-school instruction as quickly as possible.  New protocols for the system include required face coverings for employees in instances where social distancing isn’t possible, and also for 2nd grade and older students on the school bus and where social distancing isn’t possible in the in-school setting.

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