Hall County School District superintendent Will Schofield and the HCSD board of education provided an update Monday evening on what a return to school may look like for students and faculty at Hall schools this August.
As of now, HCSD expects schools to open for in-person learning, with classes starting on Monday, Aug. 17, and orientation planned for Aug. 12 and 13. Orientation will be in-person and socially distanced for students starting kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade, as well as students new to the Hall County School District. All other orientation will take place virtually.
On Tuesday evening, the school district sent out an email to all parents of Hall schools students asking if they would prefer a return to in-person learning, a continuation of virtual learning to start the school year or if they are still undecided. The school district is planning to offer both a virtual and an in-person option for students in the coming year. Responses to the survey will not lock students into one path or the other, but Schofield said it would be extremely helpful to the school district for parents to answer as accurately as possible so HCSD has a good estimation of how many students will be participating in each type of instruction.
The email also included a video recorded by Schofield explaining what the start of school may look like, as well as providing a “first 15 days” plan for the coming semester. According to the “first 15 days” plan, the school year will start with seven teacher workdays beginning on Aug. 3 and running through Aug. 11 “to get protocol and procedures in place.” Students will be briefed on precautionary measures being taken by the schools during orientation on Aug. 12 and 13.
Aug. 14 will be another teacher workday, during which the school district will assess if there are any changes that need to be made to return procedures. The following Monday, Aug. 17, would be the first day of class. Parents will have until Friday, Aug. 21 to declare officially if their children will participate in in-person or virtual learning.
Students who do decide to return to school buildings in August will be protected with a bevy of precautionary measures. All teachers and other school faculty will have their temperatures taken daily when they enter the school building. School staff will also be required to wear masks and/or face shields throughout the day, and school will also be halving occupancy for lunch rooms.
HCSD has not yet made a decision on whether or not it will require students to wear face coverings.
Above everything, Schofield said it was important that families of Hall school students remain flexible, as plans could switch around rapidly.
“We’ve never done this before, but we’ve got the right people on board to get it done and do it well,” Schofield said. “… But it’s going to be a year like we’ve never seen before.”