DeKalb Schools delays new school year by two weeks

A screenshot from the July 13 DeKalb County Board of Education meeting shows members of the board and Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris, second from right, discussing district business.

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A screenshot from the July 13 DeKalb County Board of Education meeting shows members of the board and Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris, second from right, discussing district business.

The DeKalb County Board of Education amended the district’s calendar for the 2020-2021 school year, delaying the start of the upcoming school year as the district opts to start the year virtually.

The first day of school will now be Aug. 17. School was scheduled to begin Aug. 3.

"This additional time will allow the district to continue with (its) preparations so that we can be thoughtful, intentional and prepared for our staff members and our students," Chief Academic Officer Stacy Stepney said during Monday's monthly school board meeting.

The district's calendar is prepared and approved several years out, and the number of work days have direct impact on the district's budget. A calendar committee approved a calendar for the 2021-2022 school year last November.

Board chairman Marshall Orson said the amended calendar would be approved in sections, with board members voting on the delayed start Monday, then the remainder of changes to the school year as it approves a budget on July 20. Several changes are being considered, including changing the number of days students attend school for the year.

“We know the calendar’s going to have to be modified, and that’s going to include probably some reductions in instructional days,” he said during the meeting. “We need to make sure the budget and the calendar are aligned.  And we know, we’ve already discussed needing to make adjustments to the budget that would impact the calendar.”

District officials also announced the first few weeks of school would be taught virtually, with the district declaring a substantial spread as COVID-19 infections are increasing faster than any other time since the virus was declared a pandemic. Reassessments are scheduled around the board's monthly meetings, on Sept. 14, Oct. 19, Nov. 9 and Dec. 7.

The district prepared plans for returning to schools according to the spread of the coronavirus, which include students and staff returning amid a low spread, a hybrid in-person and virtual learning model during a moderate spread and distance learning during a substantial spread.

Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris, sitting in her first board meeting, announced reopening plans for when the district will reopen buildings for instruction. Those plans include things such as requiring that masks be worn in school district buildings, that temperature checks be performed.

“These are strategic actions ensuring the safety and well-being of students, staff and families,” she said. “Safety of our students and staff is our No. 1 priority.”