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As more and more Grady County students opt for online schooling during the coming year due to concerns over the pandemic, local educators are reconsidering the best way to make sure all local students get the educational support they need to succeed.
To that end, school leaders announced this week an adjustment to school hours for students, along with the availability of teacher support after-hours for all students.
“We have a collective responsibility to all Grady County students whether virtual or face-to-face,” says Janet Walden, assistant superintendent of Grady County Schools. “This is another layer of support for those not in the brick and mortar building. This gives support under them, as well.”
All seven Grady County schools will open at 8 a.m., but classes will end an hour earlier than usual, at 2 p.m.
Teachers will use that extra hour for online work, to either upload lessons, conduct live online sessions, or check on the progress virtual learners are making.
Dr. Kermit Gilliard, superintendent of Grady County Schools, states, “This will provide our face-to-face students time with their teachers and allow our virtual school students time with the same teachers, our experts.”
The school system’s Grady Online Academy of Learning Scholars, or GOALS, is using the online platform “Edmentum” to house its curriculum. Elementary school students, grades K-5, will have recorded lessons from their Grady County school teachers, with a potential for live lessons.
Middle and high school students, grades 6-12, will work at their own pace using a combination of Edmentum Courseware curriculum and online instruction, some recorded and some live, from local teachers.
All virtual students will be assigned a local homeroom teacher who will keep tabs on their progress in virtual school.
“I’m very scared for the 1,200 plus students at home, that they won’t get what they need. They need a teacher. They need somebody checking on them, and this way we have that,” explains Dr. Gilliard. “By doing it this way, every teacher becomes a virtual teacher, and all have to learn all of the software. The good part is if we have to shut down in the near future, teachers will already know how to do it, because they will be doing it from day one.”
This way, every teacher has the responsibility of contributing an online lesson rather than assigning a certain number of teachers as strictly online teachers. Having more teachers for face-to-face lessons in the school building also lets administrators spread out students into smaller classes, which allows for easier social distancing. That would also mean masks would not be required inside classes, only in the hallways during class changes and in common areas.
The schools are accommodating for the lost hour by modifying the length of each class, according to Dr. Gilliard.
The superintendent also says the school system will offer at least one teacher per grade to be on hand 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. each school day to assist with academic questions from students and/or parents.
The school year is set to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 8.