Reopening School for 2020-2021
All school systems – including those in metro Atlanta, in Georgia, and across the nation – are challenged with similar dilemmas for how to start the 2020-2021 school year in the safest manner possible. Fulton County Schools is no different, and many of you have expressed your concerns and asked questions. On Monday, the School Board discussed the issues raised by our community in a working retreat/called meeting and heard a plan from Dr. Looney for beginning the new school year. In this message, and in follow-up information, we will provide more details and do our best to answer the questions many parents have.
First, let us share a few caveats. We want students back in our schools learning and interacting as we have all traditionally known. However, we all must understand that when we come back to face-to-face school, it will not be the same due to the pandemic. Our nation is still in a health crisis, and it is critical that we do whatever possible to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Safety precautions are being taken and these will make schools feel and look different, and social distancing will change some events and behaviors. These changes may be difficult for some, especially children and young adults, so we appreciate your support as we put measures in place to provide the safest environment possible.
Also, with a district as large as Fulton County Schools – 106 schools and more than 93,000 students – the District must adopt an approach that is district-wide, achievable, and consistent. As a result, our instructional strategy provides options for attending school face-to-face or by virtual learning, and also contains contingency plans should COVID-19 cases continue to rise and cause interruptions to our in-person operations. More details are provided about these options below, and families will have until July 17 to make the decision that works best for their situation.
First Day of School Changed to Monday, August 17
In addition to announcing the face-to-face or virtual instruction options, the School Board modified the 2020-2021 calendar. Due to the change in election dates by state officials, and to allow for more overall preparation, Fulton County School's first day of the school year for students will be August 17 instead of August 10. One-third of our schools will serve as polling places for the August 11 election; and since elections bring large numbers of voters and other members of the public into our buildings, this creates an additional safety concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. This delay allows our schools to re-disinfect the areas serving as a polling place while also providing teachers and staff additional days of professional development to prepare for our students' arrival. Please note the change in the first day of school will not affect any other calendar dates, winter/spring breaks, holidays already announced, or the last day of school.
COVID-19 Prevention Strategies for the 2020-2021 School Year
Fulton County Schools' return-to-school plan emphasizes the health and safety of our students and staff. We have created a flyer (see link below) which provides a summary of what our district is doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools, such as more frequent and thorough cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces; encouraging students to wash their hands more often; providing hand sanitizer stations in hallways; placing physical barriers at the front reception desks and other high-volume areas; and creating isolation rooms for those who appear to be symptomatic of an illness. All persons who are sick are expected to stay home, and any student or staff member who become sick while at school will be sent home immediately.
All FCS employees are required to wear a face mask and, though not mandated, students are strongly encouraged to also wear one while in school. Face masks are expected for students riding a school bus, however, since social distancing is more difficult to achieve. Students will be assigned seats and buses will be disinfected after each morning and afternoon route.
Trying to manage the movements of hundreds of students will be challenging, but possible. Desks will be spaced out in classrooms and school leaders have plans for how students will travel through the building, go through class changes, eat their meals, and attend group gatherings, such as an assembly. The goal is to reduce the possible spread of illness through more physical separation, yet still give students and teachers the personal interaction they need.
Virtual Learning Opportunities for 2020-2021
Fulton County Schools is offering an Individual Remote Learning opportunity for students in grades 1-8 and a Full-time Fulton Virtual opportunity for students in grades 9-12. These options are available for students who have an underlying health condition, a social or emotional condition, or other special or extenuating family circumstances that prevents them from safely returning to a face-to-face school environment due to COVID-19. The programs are also open to other interested families. Registration begins on June 30 and ends on July 17. These virtual options require a semester commitment (from August through December) and do not include extracurricular activities at local schools. Please visit www.fultonschools.org/enrollment to register your student.