Hall County students will begin the school year with a hybrid of in-person and virtual classes on Aug. 24.
For the first two weeks, students whose last names begin with the letters A-K will attend school in person on Monday, Aug. 24, and Wednesday, Aug. 26, the Hall County School District announced Friday, Aug. 14. Students whose last names begin with the letters L-Z will attend school on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and Thursday, Aug. 27. All students will attend on Friday, Aug. 28. The plan will repeat the following week.
Students will be given assignments by teachers to complete during the days they are not attending in person. For students who have chosen virtual-only learning, classes will be held daily, as previously scheduled.
"This slow, controlled start allows for a time of adjustment as we transition into a year that will differ greatly from those in years past. Additionally, this plan provides immediate access to students, to assess their current needs and begin addressing them," according to a news release from the district.
Families with last names in two groups should contact their principals immediately to request a common schedule for families, school officials said.
The district also released a YouTube video Friday morning providing further information on the adjusted start to the year. Superintendent Will Schofield said in the video that the change was made to provide more time for students and teachers to adjust to new safety protocols before making a full return to in-person instruction.
“This gives us eight days out of those 10 that we can practice, that we can teach, that we can make sure our protocols are in place,” the superintendent said in the video. “It gives us those two Fridays to have 100% of our in-person learners in place where we can ensure we don’t have any more tweaking to do to ensure 200% accountability for the rest of the school year.”
Richard Bass, a fifth grade teacher at Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry, said the smaller class sizes would make teaching kids how to execute new precautionary protocols significantly easier.
Bass added that having fewer kids in the classroom early on will help teachers to form stronger relationships with their students from the beginning of the year.
“With that smaller group of kids that is going to be in your classroom, you get an opportunity to know those kids a lot better than if you have a whole bunch of kids at one time,” he said.
Bass said the two Fridays, when all in-person students will be coming to school, should be a learning opportunity for school staff to see which procedures are working and which ones need to be adjusted.
“Those very first Fridays, when everybody is here, that’s going to be a really good indicator of what we need to change as far as our procedures and routines to make everybody safe,” he said.
Due to the uncertainty of the immediate future, Schofield said, Hall schools may have to make further adjustments to the schedule as necessary. But for now, he said the school district plans on returning to a normal schedule for in-person learners starting immediately after the first two weeks of hybrid learning.
“It certainly will be our hope that that Tuesday after Labor Day is the day that we can come back with all of our in-person learners attending school Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday every week,” Schofield said.