Some challenges and critical decisions will be facing Athens City Schools officials in the upcoming months.
During the ACS spring retreat last week, officials discussed what to do about the COVID-19 precautions that have been followed once the 2021-2022 school year begins and the vaccine is more plentiful.
“Between now and next year, we’re going to have to decide about masks, temps and the big one is do we offer virtual learning,” Director of Schools Robert Greene said. “Sometime in the spring or summer, maybe late summer, we’re going to have to make a decision — do we still require masks and do we take temperatures and are we going to offer virtual learning. Our goal is to get every kid back (in person).”
Athens City Middle School Principal Mike Simmons noted that about 50 students returned to in-person instruction at the beginning of the fourth nine weeks, leaving 37 still in virtual learning.
He also noted that the temperature checks appear to be helping more than just with COVID prevention.
“We’ve probably had the healthiest year in the middle school since I’ve been there,” he said. “Temperature checks are so important.”
He explained that the checks not only keep the coronavirus from spreading, they also help combat the flu and other illnesses.
“In the past what happened is a child would get up and say ‘I don’t feel very good’ and they’d say ‘we’ll just have a nurse check you when you get to school,’” Simmons said. “That child may have had a 101 degree fever when they left the house, they got on the bus and got off the bus and go into the cafeteria. Then, at 8 o’clock, they’re up in our building and have their temperature taken at 101. What we’re doing (with temperature checks in advance) is preventing that from happening.”
Concerns over upcoming standardized testing were also raised during the discussion, as Assistant Director of Schools Melody Armstrong pointed out that they need a high participation rate for the tests for a variety of reasons.
“The most important thing is, we need that data to guide our instruction when we return to school in the fall,” she said.
“We need to know which kids are behind so we can get them into summer education,” Greene agreed. “We need the data to say these are the kids that are behind and maybe they need to come to summer school and get out of virtual and get back in class.”
Greene said without the tests, they won’t have the information they need.
“That’s our biggest concern — instruction of the kids that have fallen behind,” he said. “I think we can do great things with them if they’re in school.”
In response to a question about it, Greene responded that there is data showing students who are attending virtually are falling behind.
He suspects it’s largely impacted by a lack of supervision.
“It’s like anything else, if they have good adult support, it’s OK, but it’s still not as good as being in school,” he said.