Dr. Kermit Gilliard
Grady County school officials are tabulating results of a parent survey about educating their children in the middle of a pandemic, and a slim majority of those counted so far are in favor of returning to the traditional school setting.
Dr. Kermit Gilliard, superintendent of Grady County Schools, said the school system is accepting surveys through today only. Those received after Wednesday, July 22, will not be counted.
As of Tuesday, about half, 49.89 percent, of the approximately 4,600 surveys mailed had been returned to the school system’s central office, Gilliard says.
Of those, 52.26 percent preferred returning to school in the traditional, face-to-face setting with safety measures in place, according to Dr. Gilliard.
Broken down by school, that was also the preferred method of teaching selected by parents. With Shiver School parents being the largest majority selecting face-to-face as their favored option at 67.3 percent, followed by 62.93 percent of parents at Whigham School, 54.5 percent at Northside Elementary School, 50.37 percent at Southside Elementary School, 48.7 percent at Cairo High School, 46.98 percent at Washington Middle School and 44.04 percent at Eastside Elementary School.
The second choice for returning to school was an A/B schedule where the students would go to the school building two days a week for face-to-face instruction, and have three days of online teaching.
Gilliard says that the school system has ordered computers so each student here will have a device to participate in online learning, and until they arrive later this fall, the A/B schedule is not an option.
There are 18.23 percent of parents who stated they prefer an online/blended option with Grady County teachers as the instructor, and 8.32 percent of parents selected virtual school for their child.
The superintendent says he anticipates that “some teachers will provide blended instruction this semester if their students have access.”
About a quarter of the parents replying by Tuesday, 24.14 percent, said their child had no computer access. There are 10.15 percent who have limited computer access, 29.15 percent share a computer and 36.55 percent of students, according to the survey results, have their own computer.
Nearly three-fourths of the respondents, 74.3 percent, stated that they have reliable internet, with 12.98 percent having unreliable access, 7.6 percent unable to purchase internet, and 5.12 percent with no internet.
The majority of students, 48.92 percent, will use a personal vehicle to get to and from school, while 26.51 percent will rely on school buses. A small percentage, 2.03 percent, will walk to school, and 22.54 percent will utilize a combination of bus and personal vehicle for transportation.
The schools with the most students using the school bus are Northside Elementary School, followed by Washington Middle School, Shiver School, then Cairo High School.
There were 200 surveys returned that did not include the child’s name or school, or had a wrong address, and those surveys were not included in the tabulations, Dr. Gilliard says.
As county education leaders continue to monitor the status of the pandemic in Grady County, the return date for students remains Aug. 7, although Dr. Gilliard says that could still change.
According to the Grady County Health Department, from June 1 until July 14, there have been 35 local children who have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, seven were under the age of 5; 11 were between the ages of 5 and 10; five were between 11 and 13 years old; and 12 were between 14 and 18 years of age. From March 1 until June 1, there were only three cases involving youth, one between the ages of 5 and 10; and two, ages 14-18.
Meanwhile, the school system is preparing to protect its staff and encouraging families to plan their own protection.
“Masks and face shields have been ordered for each staff member, and we recommend that students also wear masks,” says Dr. Gilliard. “We will social distance as much as possible.”
Parents are encouraged to check the school system’s website. Dr. Gilliard says, “The system plan will be posted on the website by Wednesday afternoon. Each school will operate based on their setting. The system plan will be overarching and cover the main topics, and each school will be more narrow in their plans.”
The Cairo Messenger will be publishing its annual “Back to School” special section next week.