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Clayton County leaning toward all-digital format to begin the school year

Superintendent Dr. Morcease J. Beasley told 11Alive's Cheryl Preheim data will dictate what the district can do.

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — Though potential plans remain available if the COVID-19 outlook changes, Clayton County Public Schools is leaning toward going to an all-digital learning format to begin the new school year in the fall.

Superintendent Dr. Morcease J. Beasley told 11Alive that the school district has a face-to-face/digital plan that they would prefer to use.

"We were, based on our data, leaning toward that blended model," he said, referring to planning that was done late last month. "However, the data continues to worsen."

RELATED: Here are school districts' plans for back to school in the fall

"For the first week of school we're looking at returning virtually, everyone engaging virtually, until we get this data going in the right direction," the superintendent added. "So it's not final, but we're leaning that way. And I use the term leaning because we're trying to make decisions based upon what the data is allowing us to do."

The blended model would have students following an A/B format in which some students would go to school on Monday and Wednesday, while others went on Tuesday and Thursday. All students would do virtual learning on Fridays.

But the district's reopening options outline standards which would require minimal or moderate COVID-19 spread for that model - defined as 6-100 cases per 100,00 county residents across a 14-day moving average.

In the instance of more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents, the plan called for complete digital learning across all schools.

RELATED: Clayton County Public Schools to lease nearly 40,000 laptops for students

According to the most recent data by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, there were 713 new cases in Clayton County between June 24-July 7. With nearly 300,000 people in the county, that would be well more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents.

"We do know that we prefer kids in school face-to-face, we know families need children in school so that they can get back to work, we understand those things," Dr. Beasley said. "But we also understand that we got a lot of families that are concerned about the virus. We've got a lot of employees who are concerned. We've got a lot of members of the community who are concerned. And right now the data is not too encouraging relative to getting this thing under control."

He said the current data is even worse than what it was when schools first closed on March 16.

"So how do you come back when the data is worse than it was when you closed on March 16?"

In early May the county Board of Education approved a plan to allow the district to lease 38,000 new Chromebooks for students in 3rd through 12th grades, a nearly $37 million investment over five years. 

Beasley said the district was still working with vendors to obtain and deliver devices, and that it wouldn't be possible to get them to every family by the start of school on Aug. 3.

He said right now they are prioritizing students who were not able to consistently connect after schools closed in March, with the intention of eventually getting a laptop to every family.

"I'm asking families that have devices to continue to use the devices that they have while we resource up the families that don't have devices, with the understanding that eventually everybody will be issued a device as those new devices are rolling in," he said.

Beasley said the district will make a final decision about how to proceed with the new school year by July 28. 

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