Two Georgia school districts end year early, others considering it

At least a couple of Georgia school districts will end school early this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Carrollton City Schools, west of metro Atlanta, will release for summer break on May 1. Another district will end a week after that, and at least a couple of others are considering earlier end dates.

"Our hope is the situation will return to normal for the next school year," Carrollton City Schools Superintendent Mark Albertus announced on the video website Vimeo. Teachers have been working daily with the district's 5,400 students, he said, "However, students' and parents' ability to effectively continue at-home learning over a long period of time is a concern."

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The tiny, 900-student Chattahoochee County Schools in the Columbus area told the Georgia Department of Education Friday that they will end on May 8.

Two other school districts will put the matter before their school boards, according to the state agency. The Cherokee County School District, north of Atlanta, is considering a May 15 end date for its more than 40,000 students, and the Union County School District on the North Carolina line, with about 3,000 students, is looking at May 8.

Fulton County schools, by far the largest among these districts with about 94,000 students, is ending the year for graduating seniors May 1.

The four smaller school systems had responded to a state education department query Friday morning asking superintendents if they planned to end early. More responses could be coming.

Only the Cherokee school district could be reached for comment Friday afternoon. A spokeswoman for Superintendent Brian V. Hightower said he is considering ending May 15 but will ask parents about other end dates before seeking his school board’s approval April 16.

Last week, the Georgia Board of Education voted to let school districts shorten their 180-day attendance calendars. On Wednesday, after issuing two previous short-term closure orders, Gov. Brian Kemp ordered campuses closed until summer break.

The resulting remote learning has proved difficult for some, especially in areas without internet service and in households with younger children. Like the parents of these students, many teachers are juggling work at home while looking after their own children.

“We want to ensure we do not add unnecessary stress to families amid what already exists,” Albertus said in his video. He said he hopes health and safety conditions will allow his school district to offer summer school. If so, it will be “more robust” than normal, and all parents will be invited to send their children free of charge.

Most students will not miss the time, since state testing normally occurs in May, he said, adding that students will already have been taught what they need to know by then. The days after testing are for remediation of students who are behind and for “enrichment,” he said.