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Some students returning to school buildings. Here’s what Hall, Gainesville districts are planning
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Eileen Toledo holds a Zoom meeting Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, inside her empty classroom at Academies of Discovery at South Hall as students study at home. - photo by Scott Rogers

Hall and Gainesville school districts will begin phasing students back to in-person instruction next week, according to announcements from both districts Thursday morning.

Hall County Schools

Hall County Schools will return to an in-person hybrid school schedule beginning Tuesday, Jan. 19, after the school system reported stabilizing COVID-19 numbers and “significantly” decreased student cases, said Superintendent WIll Schofield.

Students who have selected online learning only will continue with their online schooling. The school week will begin Tuesday, Jan. 19, as Monday, Jan. 18, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a school holiday. 

“This plan for in-person learning allows teachers to connect with students, assess student progress, and provide in-person feedback to all learners,” Schofield said in a media release that noted the information had been emailed to staff and parents. “Additionally, it will allow HCSD to gather accurate student COVID numbers in a socially distanced environment.”

Stan Lewis, Hall’s community relations director, said this hybrid schedule gives the system time to introduce and revisit safety protocols with a smaller number of students. He said Hall has around 3,500 students transitioning from online to inperson learning this semester.

“A review for all of us, we feel, is necessary and will be beneficial,” Lewis said. “We feel it’s important to the well being of our students to provide in-person instruction as long as we are staffed adequately and can deliver content in a safe and effective manner.”

As of Thursday, Jan. 14, Hall reported 48 teacher absences resulting from COVID-19.

The decision to return to an in-person hybrid model will be in effect through Jan. 22, and another update on the district’s plans for future school days, based on the latest COVID-19 data and spread in the community, will come on Jan. 21, the superintendent said.

Schofield said the district’s contact tracing activity, an indicator of the virus’ future school district spread, is also “down dramatically.” 

The in-person attendance for the hybrid schedule for the week of Jan. 19 is as follows:

  • All in-person self-contained special education students will attend every day, Jan. 19-22.

  • In-person learners with last names beginning with L-Z will attend Tuesday, Jan. 19, and Thursday, Jan. 21.

  • In-person learners with last names beginning with A-K will attend Wednesday, Jan. 20, and Friday, Jan. 22.

  • For the two days when in-person learners are home, they will continue to complete their lessons online.

  • Dual enrollment students will attend everyday.

Schofield said the district will be “intentionally re-teaching 200% accountability practices” to all students and staff. The district’s 200% accountability practices refer to school policies of personal accountability and keeping one another accountable for COVID-19 safety.

The superintendent continued to urge staff and students to stay home if they are not feeling well or have any symptoms of COVID-19. 

Gainesville City Schools

In Gainesville, Superintendent Jeremy Williams announced a portion of his district’s students will also return to school on Tuesday.

Williams thanked families and staff for adjusting their schedules for remote instruction and said “while the local COVID-19 data is not ideal,” the district will begin phasing in-person instruction back in.

Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 19, Gainesville’s attendance schedule will be as follows:

  • Self-contained special education students and Pre-K through second grade students will return to face-to-face instruction.

  • Students third grade through 12th grade will continue with remote instruction. Meals will continue to be provided on bus routes for these students.

Williams said as the district continues to monitor its phased-in return to in-person class, officials hope to increase the number of students back in school the following week. 

He also urged parents to reach out to their student’s school if their child needs assistance.

Times reporter Kelsey Podo contributed.

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