Gwinnett teachers may agree with a Twitter comment from William & Mary history professor Alexandra Finley making the rounds this week that jokes:
Admin in 2020: Please be prepared to teach online, in person, both simultaneously, on a moving train, while juggling, in a burning building, under the sea, during a wrestling match with a T-Rex, as a hologram and riding a unicorn. Also be safe and we value you.
That’s because Gwinnett just announced it will begin the school year on Aug. 5 with in-person instruction, along with an option for digital learning.
On Monday, an email will be sent by the district asking parents to select one of the two options for their kids.
In a survey of parents, 43% preferred a return to in-person instruction; 34% wanted 100% digital learning; and 23% liked an option that combines in-person instruction with digital learning, according to Gwinnett County Schools.
In its note to parents, Gwinnett said:
GCPS considered this feedback and other relevant information available at the time. We thoroughly studied combining in-person and digital learning. The many challenges related to this option make it one the school system cannot effectively manage with existing resources.
Therefore, it was determined that the most prudent course of action is to open the school year with in-person instruction, along with an option for digital learning, for students in grades K-12.
For immediate planning purposes, we will be asking all families to tell us which option they prefer for each of their children:
In-person instruction at their child’s school; or
Digital learning for their child at home.
Students will attend school based on the option chosen for all of first semester (through December). A change may be made after the first nine weeks, if it is needed to better serve the student.
The information released is more of a sketch of what will happen with a lot of detail yet to be added as to division of labor in offering two instructional options.
Teachers are due back to their buildings at the end of July and several have reached out to say they are unsure how the two options – online and in-person – will be staffed. They are also concerned whether there will be enough time to get everything ready for a two-prong approach. Some have health concerns about the face-to-face classes.
Masks will be encouraged but not mandated. “The use of masks can be a challenge for some children and adults, so it will not be required in the district. However, GCPS does highly encourage the wearing of masks for those who can,” says the district plan.
Gwinnett’s plan is worth reading because the district has long been a model for the state. As a school chief said to me a decade ago, “As goes Gwinnett eventually goes the rest of Georgia.”
Here is part of the official return plan posted today:
All central office staff members who are currently working remotely will report to their work sites on July 8.
All employees who are not 12-month staff will return to their work sites on their scheduled start dates.
If a staff member has a concern or question about returning to their work site, they should contact their supervisor. Employees may be referred to Human Resources for specific issues or for guidance.
Gwinnett County Public Schools is fully committed to ensuring work sites are as safe as they possibly can be. The district is referring to current guidance from health partners to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 in school and office settings. The following are some of the protective measures that will be in place:
- Employees should self-screen at home. It is recommended to take temperatures daily before going to work. Anyone with a fever of 100.4 F or higher should not go to a work site. They also should screen themselves for respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath prior to coming to work each day.
- An employee should not come into the building if he or she is sick or has any symptoms of illness or if he or she has been in close contact with someone who has been ill within the last 14 days.
- An employee should report to their supervisor if they have been exposed to someone who is ill.
- When coming in contact with anyone from the outside to deliver or pick up items, employees are encouraged to wear protective face covering and gloves.
- Employees should maintain physical distance from others as much as possible.
- Use a face mask or face covering. GCPS will provide employees with three cloth, reusable face coverings upon their return to work. Employees also may use their own personal face coverings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in settings where social distancing can’t be achieved. The use of masks can be a challenge for some children and adults, so it will not be required in the district. However, GCPS does highly encourage the wearing of masks for those who can.
- Do not share materials such as pens, computers, phones, keypads, touch pads, etc.
- Wash hands frequently and for 20 seconds or more, using soap and water.
If an employee is working and becomes ill...
- Report illness (or exposure to someone who is ill) to your supervisor. This information is important for leave purposes and for efforts to contain and stop the spread of illness.
- GCPS’ Leave Office will work with individuals to ensure appropriate leave is applied and benefits received.
- In addition, GCPS’ Department of Health Services will conduct a contact investigation and consult with the Gwinnett County Health Department for recommendations. If testing shows that an employee is COVID-19 positive, county health officials will be in contact to provide additional instructions and support.
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