(Updated 8/27/20, 3 p.m.)
The Coweta County School System will return to in-person instruction on Tuesday, Sept. 8 for students who choose that option.
According to a school system press release issued Wednesday afternoon, schools will gradually phase in a return to face-to-face class instruction, with priority given to special education and younger students.
The Empower virtual learning option will remain available to all parents who want their children to continue coursework online.
Youngest, special needs students will go back first
Students in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade can start as early as Friday, Sept. 4. The early restart day for younger students is optional.
All students in pre-K through fifth grades – which typically have smaller class sizes – can return to a regular weekday class schedule on Sept. 8. Middle and high school students will be divided alphabetically by last name and will attend class on alternating weeks, following a hybrid model.
Coweta Schools will also allow those special education students most in need of service – students on an adapted curriculum model – to return early to all schools on Thursday, Sept. 3. Parents of special needs students will receive a notification from the district Special Education office if their child is eligible for an early start.
Special education faculty will notify parents of adapted curriculum students who can begin to return on Thursday, September 3. Adapted curriculum students will also be allowed to attend in-person middle and high school classes every day after the full start on Sept. 8.
Parents of special education students can call the district’s Special Education office at 770-254-2800 with questions.
All except Pre-K students can still opt for online learning
Beginning Friday, Sept. 4, Pre-K classes will no longer offer distance learning for students. Virtual learning will only be provided if it is deemed necessary to close classes due to COVID-19 cases and exposure. All Pre-K students will be expected to attend class onsite beginning Sept. 4.
Students in grades K-12 may opt to continue with virtual learning when in-person classes begin. Parents who signed up for the Empower online option prior to Aug. 13 do not need to re-register.
Parents who wish to change their child’s earlier declared status from in-person to online learning will be able to do so here through Aug. 30.
Parents who previously registered for Empower who want to change from online to in-person instruction can do so by contacting their children’s homeroom teacher or school. Parents should direct questions about their previous option to their children’s homeroom teacher or school principal.
Hybrid schedules for middle and high school
Middle and high schools will follow hybrid schedules, in which students, divided in half alphabetically according to last names, will alternate weeks of attending class for face-to-face instruction.
Students with last names beginning with A-K can return to their classrooms for in-person instruction Sept. 8. Students with last names beginning with L-Z can return on Monday, Sept. 14.
Middle and high school students not attending face-to-face during a given week will continue to participate and receive instruction virtually. The hybrid schedule will reduce the numbers of in-school instruction by half each day, allowing for greater social distancing.
Middle and high schools will communicate with parents before Sept. 8 regarding their students’ scheduled attendance times under the hybrid model. Parents of middle or high school students who have questions or concerns about their student’s scheduled attendance days under the hybrid option should call their school’s counseling office or principal.
School bus service, After School to resume
Regular student bus service will be provided as students return for in-person instruction. Buses will be available for eligible special education students on Sept. 3, for Pre-K through first grade students on Sept. 4, and all students Sept. 8.
On the first morning of bus ridership, students should plan to be at their neighborhood pick-up spot as early as 6:45 a.m. until bus pick-up times become established. Routes will adjust as ridership demand is established. Routes and bus stops will remain the same as last year. Parents who have questions about routes or stops should call the Transportation Department at 770-254-2820.
With the return of face-to-face instruction Sept. 8, elementary school After School Programs will also restart. The program will register new students on Sept. 1 and Sept. 2 at each Coweta elementary school, where parents can sign up at drive-thru registrations between 9 a.m and 4 p.m.
Start dates for return to in-person instruction
Thursday, Sept. 3
Special Education-Adapted Curriculum students only, in all schools (Special education faculty will notify parents directly.)
Friday, Sept. 4
Elementary schools, early grades (pre-K through first grade)
Tuesday, Sept. 8
Elementary schools, all grades (Pre-K through fifth grade)
*Middle and high schools HYBRID (Grades 6-12, last names A-K)
Monday, Sept. 14
*Middle and high schools HYBRID (Grades 6-12, last names L-Z)
*The two groups of students will alternate attending classes in person each week.
Face coverings and other preventive measures
Because Coweta County’s COVID-19 transmission rates remain categorized as “Substantial Spread,” all students in grades 2-12 will be required to wear face masks or coverings when at school or riding the school bus.
This and other additional mitigative measures have been incorporated into Coweta Schools’ plans for return, and Coweta’s planning has been reviewed by the Georgia Department of Public Health and local emergency management officials, according to the release.
“While COVID-19 data has shown promising directions in recent health reports, the case and transmission rates of the disease remain high in our state and in Coweta County,” said Coweta Superintendent Evan Horton. “Because of that, we have taken additional steps with our return-to-school plan, including hybrid schedules for middle and high school, requiring face masks for students and employees, and additional mitigative steps taken in classrooms to provide for a safer learning environment.”
Horton said school districts around Georgia have approached the start of the school year during the current COVID-19 spike in a number of ways, including all online instruction, hybrid schedules, and partial and full openings.
“Various approaches have been tried, with mixed results, in communities that have both higher and lower spread levels than we have in Coweta,” he said. “We all want to get back to face-to-face instruction for students. We have tried to plan for the best and safest approaches to achieve that, while still maintaining the virtual option for students so that families can make choices.”
“We should all remain aware, however, that COVID-19 will continue to be a fact of life in our community for the time being, and it may at times impede our ability to provide in-person instruction on a class level or school level,” he added.
Although the school system has substitute rosters in place, some classes – special education classes, for instance – may be particularly affected if staff members have to enter COVID-19 quarantine because of the difficulty in finding qualified substitute teachers, Horton said.
“Our schools, district administration and health services will continue to monitor and adjust our plans as necessary as we navigate through this next phase of our school year,” he said. “As always, I appreciate our school system faculty and staff members, and I appreciate the grace and support of our families and community.”
As the school system continues to monitor COVID-19 levels in the county, and returns to optional in-person instruction, other steps include:
• Continuing to consult with state and local health and emergency authorities.
• Continuing to plan, refine health assessment protocols, train staff and adapt schools and classrooms.
• 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.
For more information about the return to in-person instruction, hybrid middle and high school schedules and the school system’s COVID-19 dashboard, visit this page.