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Grady County school officials are considering a school reopening plan that would require the use of facial masks by all school personnel as well as students in common areas and in crowded hallways, but how such a mandate, if put in place, would be enforced is still an on-going debate amongst school administrators.
Grady County school superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard briefed the board on the ongoing revisions to the school system’s reopening plan.
Before announcing a mask requirement, Dr. Gilliard requested additional time for himself and the administration of each school to determine the consequences of such a policy and enforcement.
Board of Education Vice Chairman Derrick Majors, who presided Tuesday night in the absence of Chairwoman Teresa Gee Hardy, said that by shifting the reopening date to later in the year, the local system could benefit from the mistakes made by other systems that have already reopened or are opening earlier than schools here.
“There are so many things to consider,” board member Jeff Worsham said.
Chairwoman Hardy, who participated in Tuesday night’s meeting via conference call, said that the board should be “proactive, rather than reactive.”
“After talking with those who have opened, what has been the biggest challenge?” board member John White asked the superintendent.
Dr. Gilliard said that his peers report that the biggest issue is with the adults, not the children.
The superintendent said that if the virus begins to spread among teachers and staff, the system could possibly have to close schools due to a lack of adults to fill critical positions. He said that the system was going to be severely limited on substitute teachers, due to the fact that the available pool of substitutes is filled with older individuals who are not interested in returning to the classroom under the current situation.
“I believe if we are forced to shut down again it will be because of the adults being sick, not the children,” Dr. Gilliard said.
Gilliard also reported that Mitchell County Schools had been opened for the longest of the southwest Georgia schools and so far had not experienced any COVID-19 issues. However, schools there are operating on a split schedule to reduce numbers of people in schools at one time and limiting one person per seat on buses. Students in Mitchell County are also required to wear masks in common areas and crowded hallways, according to Dr. Gilliard.
As of Tuesday, Dr. Gilliard reported that 3,439 students are expected to return for face-to-face instruction at county schools and 1,139 students have opted to enroll in Grady Online Academy for Learning Scholars (GOALS).
Dr. Gilliard said his team and school principals are looking to see what teachers would be assigned to virtual teaching and how classes can be spread out for maximum social distancing for those who are returning to the traditional school building.