HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — Henry County school officials and members of the county board of education say they are optimistic about the concept of a staggered return to class for students.
Henry County School Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis showed board members a look at local health data along with a running dashboard with weekly COVID-19 numbers for the county. The data for the dashboard is obtained from the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Numbers shown at the August 24 board meeting revealed that COVID-19 trends for Henry County have been steadily declining over the past month.
According to the data received, the new cases confirmed represent only 0.14 percent of the county's population.
“We want to make sure that all stakeholders are able to see and gauge this data along with the data tracker here in our school district,” said Davis. "However, returning to campus requires more than just the numbers changing for the better.”
The numbers improving is only the first requirement to getting the school system to a point where they can feel comfortable bringing the students back, Davis says.
In addition, she says, there must be extensive internal and external stakeholder feedback, plus district officials will have to study districts across the state of Georgia that have already allowed students to return to campus, combined with ongoing rigorous preparation.
Officials in Henry County were already well underway with a plan to reopen schools under a hybrid model for those who desired to return to campus. After COVID-19 numbers began to spike higher in July, according to a release from the school system, the Henry County School Board made the decision to delay the start of school and enact a fully virtual start to the school year.
The school system has identified a gradually phased transition plan with four parts:
- Phase 1 -- Remaining school-based employees would return, while all families would confirm their preferred learning option.
- Phase 2 -- Student orientation for acclimation to new processes, protocols, and on-campus learning responsibilities.
- Phase 3 -- Students return enacted by choice -- Elementary and middle school students would return on a Monday-through-Friday schedule, while high school students would remain on a staggered return.
- Phase 4 -- Students at all levels, if a return-to-campus option has been selected, would return to campus on Monday-through Friday.
"We want all students to return to campus, but we want to do it the right way," said board vice-chair Holly Cobb.
Board member Annette Edwards expressed her appreciation for the plans prepared for the community.
"I hope our staff and community can appreciate the hard work that has gone into planning for going back to school face-to-face," she said. "There is noting more important than face-to-face learning. It is important that we bring our students and staff back in a safe environment."