GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Parents in the largest school district in the state have just seven days to decide if they'll send their kids back to campus full time or enroll in virtual learning from home.
The district told 11Alive they had to set a deadline so they could have a clear picture of what the upcoming school year will look like for students.
"The situation changes on a daily basis, if not more frequently. The situation on the ground is changing. But, the reality is, we still have to plan for a school year that's starting in the fall," explained Gwinnett District Spokesperson Bernard Watson.
Right now, Gwinnett County Schools are scheduled to return Aug. 5, but Watson said that date is not set in stone.
"That start date could change depending on the conditions on the ground, so to speak. So, as we move closer to that date, we are in constant contact with our partners to determine the best option for us as a district. Conditions can change between now and August fifth," he said.
While some parents expressed frustration that they have to make a decision about their child's education with so much uncertainty about what could happen next with Georgia’s coronavirus numbers, Watson said the district needs to know so they can figure out their plans.
"A lot of what is going to happen in the classroom hasn't been determined yet because we haven't even heard back from our parents," he said. "We need to get their response about what they want for their student before we determine what in class instruction will look like."
11Alive has heard from teachers as well, worried about teaching both in-person and online courses. Watson said they're still figuring that out, too.
"Some live teaching and some recording teaching may be going on, and some teachers may have to do both," he said.
One thing they're sure of, though, is the virtual classes will be taught by Gwinnett County teachers.
Some smaller districts are contracting out recorded classes to a subscription service that would provide the lessons to the districts, but Gwinnett is not doing that.
"We will not contract out, we will do everything local," he said.
Watson said he understands these are hard decisions - and they'll have to make a lot of adjustments along the way.
"This is not an optimal or ideal situation. I don't think anybody would want us to be in this situation," he said. "We are doing our best to ensure that students learn as well as they are safe and our employees are safe as well."
While the district is not requiring masks for students or teachers, they are providing each teacher and staff with washable masks that they'll be strongly encouraged to wear.
The district is also going to implement one-way hallways and stagger start times to keep kids out of the hall. What the actual classrooms will look like, though, depends on how many kids come back in person.
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