Dade County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jan Irons Harris confirmed at a June 8 School Board meeting that all Dade schools are set to reopen on August 7.
Harris said that every school she has talked with other schools in neighboring counties plans to start on time as well. However, Harris added that these plans could instantly change based on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and other government bodies.
“This is subject to change tomorrow,” Harris said. “We have to continue to be flexible.”
All Dade schools will be providing parents two options. The first option is to send their child back to school in person and the second option is to enroll their child in virtual school.
If parents send their child back to school, Harris said students will not be required to wear masks even though it is encouraged. However, if a teacher has an underlying medical condition and wants their students to wear a mask, it will be mandatory.
“If we have a medically vulnerable teacher who says ‘boys and girls, we’re going to wear a mask in here’, guess what – [the students] are going to wear masks in there,” Harris said.
Dade High School Principal James Fahrney said students will not be disciplined if they forget to bring a mask to school.
“Nobody is going to be punished for not having [a mask],” Fahrney said, adding he will make sure the school has as many extra masks as possible for the students.
There will also be daily temperature checks. Students will be sent home immediately if their temperature is above 100.4.
“We may have to send a class home for weeks,” Harris said. “Our goal is to keep the school open. We are committed to having school five days a week.”
For students who ride the bus, Harris said all bus drivers and students are required to wear masks because it is impossible to remain socially distant in that environment. Students will be given assigned seating on the buses as well.
For drop off, parents will not be allowed to walk with their child into the school. Students will go directly to their classrooms for breakfast.
The lunchroom will only fill at half capacity, with the rest of the students eating in classrooms. Harris said elementary teachers will lose their duty-free lunches to ensure students are socially distant.
Elementary schools will still have recess. However, students cannot bring toys from home.
No visitors will be allowed inside the school at any point.
“We’re all going to have to be flexible and have a good attitude about what is asked of us,” Harris said.
Harris said that the CDC has allowed for three feet apart instead of the usual six because of the lack of room in classrooms.
“We cannot promise that everywhere we go, your child will be six feet apart,” Harris said.
Students will have individual supplies that cannot be shared with other students. Harris also said that students will receive their own technology including laptops that also cannot be shared.
There will be no student assemblies. Harris said that no field trips have been planned yet either.
For virtual schools, parents must enroll their students. There will be a 5-day grace period for parents to decide if they want to move their child to traditional or vice versa. Harris said teachers will not be responsible for the virtual curriculum. Instead, the software the schools decide to choose will have a predetermined curriculum that students are expected to follow. After the grace period, elementary students will remain in virtual or traditional school for nine weeks before switching if they choose to. All secondary school students will have to stay in their choice of school for the semester. Those enrolled in virtual school may still be involved in extracurricular activities.
“Our parents have been great about being flexible and supportive,” Harris said. “I just want to thank our parents.”