The Hall County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday evening to approve an expenditure of $100,000 in 2020 ESPLOST money to purchase materials that will address “district wide safety and security concerns."
HCSD superintendent Will Schofield said the money will be used to purchase new hand dryers, sanitizer, masks, gloves, plexiglass windows to be installed in front offices and “additional mitigation devices that we’ll need” in preparation of potentially reopening schools for in-person learning this August. Schofield said the district has not yet made a decision on what school will look like come August, but either a full or partial reopening would require the implementation of many new safety measures that HCSD is trying to get out in front of.
“It's come to the point where I believe what we’ve got to think about is how do we coexist with COVID,” he said. “COVID is not going away today. It’s not going away tomorrow. There won’t be a vaccine in August. There won’t be a vaccine in November. We’re going to have this with us for a while.”
Schofield said he was hopeful schools would be ready to reopen in August, but “it’s too early to say.”
Assistant superintendent Kevin Bales said the school district has sent out surveys to parents of students as well as school faculty asking their opinions on reopening, and “the overwhelming majority” are in favor of it. Still, Schofield said there are many factors to consider before making a decision, including the medical frailty of some Hall County students and their families.
HCSD is currently considering everything from returning to traditional, in-person learning, to a hybrid reopening where only a portion of students will attend in-person classes depending on the day, to continuing at-home learning to start the next school year.
“It’s just too early to say,” Schofield said. “We’re not sitting here saying ‘We will be back, brick and mortar, traditional, August 5.’ We’re saying that’s our goal.”