The Coweta County School System is continuing to monitor local COVID-19 conditions and other factors as it considers reopening optional face-to-face student instruction in the coming weeks.
Factors being considered
The school system is reviewing a variety of local data as it assesses a return for in-person options, including:
• Two-week case counts and the COVID positivity rate for Coweta County are used to assess the level of community transmission of COVID-19, among other data.
• The local hospitalization rate is monitored to gauge the impact of the disease on local health care capacity.
• Those metrics rose over the summer as schools prepared to return in early August, and remain high both locally and state-wide.
• School systems around Georgia have also returned to school in a variety of ways this August, including all-virtual classes, full or partial returns with various plans, and hybrid learning models. The results have been mixed, but have provided significant data and models for the county to consider as it refines its own plan for face-to-face instruction.
• The school system is also monitoring the impact of COVID-19 in Coweta on its own schools. With only staff members largely in buildings, the school system is monitoring the number of employees who have been quarantined or isolated and who cannot go to the workplace due to either a reported COVID-19 positive test, prolonged exposure to a confirmed positive case, or staff who are symptomatic.
• All cases are reviewed by the school system’s health staff and by the Georgia Department of Community Health, and are either recommended for quarantine or isolation or cleared to return to the workplace.
The Coweta County School System has approximately 3,100 employees. As of Aug. 20, the school system had 171 staff – affecting most of Coweta County’s 31 schools and system offices – who are unavailable to report to buildings due to COVID-related isolations or quarantines.
Of the 171 employees affected, most are employees who have been quarantined because of prolonged exposure to a positive case – in or out of the school setting. Currently, in most cases, employees can continue to teach or work from home during virtual learning. The school system would need to make sure there are sufficient substitutes to cover classes with students learning in person.
Because of rising COVID-19 rates, which placed Coweta County in the category of substantial spread of the disease, Coweta County School System began the school year on Aug. 13 with distance learning for all students.
The school system plans for a phased reintroduction of in-person student instruction beginning as early as Sept. 8. Priority will be given to the youngest students – those in Pre-K through first grade – and special education students, who have the greatest difficulty in distance learning.
CCSS administrators have been working to develop a gradual re-entry plan that will allow in-person instruction for those families who choose that option. With a gradual re-entry, the system believes that schools can monitor the success of its social distancing practices, sanitation measures and other mitigative protocols, and make adjustments as needed.
Because of continued high transmission levels, schools are adopting increased mitigative measures, including requiring face masks or coverings for all students in grades 2-12, and for all employees, when social distancing can’t be maintained.
“Parents should be aware that, when we return to in-person instruction, COVID-19 will continue to have an impact on our community for the time being,” Superintendent Evan Horton said in the release. “It will have an impact on our schools and sometimes on our ability to deliver in-class instruction. Necessary mitigative measures, including quarantines and cleaning procedures, could result in disruptions to in-person instruction on a class-by-class or school-by-school level at times.”
With generally smaller school and class sizes, elementary schools can more easily maintain social distancing on return. The system’s goal is to open classrooms for face-to-face instruction for all elementary students whose families choose to return to on-campus instruction.
Middle and high schools:
Middle and high schools are larger and have larger class sizes and a hybrid model will be used initially. A hybrid model will limit the number of students on campus and in-class, and allow for greater social distancing for students and staff. Students will be assigned to one of two cohort groups. Each group will have designated days that they will be able to attend class on campus. When one cohort is on-campus, the other group will receive instruction virtually.
Parents will continue to have the option for students to remain online and receive their instruction and work assignments virtually on a full-time basis. Online and in-class instruction will both follow typical scope and sequence, including for students whose schools follow a hybrid model.
As the system continues to monitor COVID-19 levels in the county and reviews plans and options, other steps being taken by Coweta Schools include:
• Continuing to consult with state and local health and emergency authorities.
• Continuing to plan, refine health assessment protocols, train staff and prepare schools for students’ return to class.
• Establishing system and school-level COVID-19 response teams to provide site-based response and communicate with parents when COVID-related concerns arise at schools.
• Establishing an online dashboard of COVID-19 data so that parents can monitor conditions at the system and school level.