Gainesville schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams told the school board on Tuesday that, if all goes according to plan, Gainesville students could be fully back in the classroom on Wednesday, Jan. 27.
The board also approved the 2021-22 calendar, retaining a phased-in approach to the start of the school year. That approach was first brought on by COVID-19.
Return to in-person class
Williams told the school board the district’s COVID-19 numbers had come and stayed down after the school system delayed for two weeks a return to in-person classes at the start of the semester on Jan. 6.
The school district reported 18 students and staff absent and positive for COVID-19 for the week leading up to Jan. 11 and the week leading up to Jan. 18. The number of students and staff quarantining, however, dropped from 21 for the week leading up to to Jan. 11 to nine for the week leading up to to Jan. 18.
Those numbers are down from 33 positive cases in the week leading up to December 21, and 214 quarantining that same week.
Self-contained special education students, as well as pre-K through second grade returned to in-person class on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
The goal, he said, is to return third through eighth grades to class on Monday, Jan. 25, and ninth through 12th grades on Wednesday, Jan. 27. He said returning the older students two days later will allow high school students who will be taking the PSAT at Gainesville High School on Tuesday to focus on that.
All 10th graders and select ninth and 11th graders take the PSAT in small groups in school buildings.
Williams said the planned schedule is subject to change, based on changes in the district’s COVID-19 numbers.
He encouraged staff and families to continue reporting COVID-19 cases as quickly as possible so the district can decide the safest path forward.
“We need them to be as honest and as accurate as possible with us,” he told The Times.
2021-22 school calendar
The approved 2021-22 school calendar is similar to this year’s and retains a phased-in approach to the start of the school year that was introduced in 2020-21, Williams said after the board’s meeting.
The 2021-22 school year will begin with a teacher work week on Monday, Aug. 2, through Thursday, Aug. 5. That will be followed by three days of open house on Friday, Aug. 6, Monday, Aug. 9, and Tuesday, Aug. 10, according to the calendar.
Then, pre-K, second grade, sixth grade, ninth grade and 10th grade will begin school on Wednesday, Aug. 11, and the rest of the student body will begin on Friday, Aug. 13.
The reason for the phased-in approach is two-fold: First, students in new school buildings will be able to acclimate, and second, the phasing in will reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
“We were able to take some COVID lessons and apply it to where we kind of phase it in,” Williams said. “We don’t anticipate COVID being gone, so we rather go ahead and have a calendar that allows us a little bit of room than be tied to something that is possibly unrealistic.”
Williams said he hopes that by the start of next school year, and with a slow start, the district will be ready to return to in-person operation sooner than it was this year.