By REBECCA HAZEN
The Dade County School System has implemented a new COVID-19 response plan, which consists of three levels based on the spread of cases and number of quarantines.
Dade Elementary School is currently at Level I, Davis Elementary School is at Level III, and the Middle School and High School are at Level II.
For the schools in Level II, students in households starting with the letters M-Z will start their Hybrid Plan on Thursday, Aug. 26. Students in households starting with A-L will start their Hybrid Plan on Monday, Aug. 30. This schedule will continue until Friday, Sept. 10.
For Level I, or Low Spread, classes will be five days a week with additional social distancing measures (3-6 feet). Masks will be recommended and there will be limited visitor access. Teachers will integrate digital learning to ensure students are prepared for the possibility of hybrid or digital learning.
For Level II, or Moderate Spread, there is a separate plan for the elementary schools and the middle and high school. Elementary classrooms will quarantine for 10 calendar days when a student tests positive. If multiple classrooms in the same grade have positive cases, the entire grade level will quarantine for 10 days. If several grade levels are quarantined, the school may be moved to Level III, which is remote learning for two weeks.
For Level II at the Middle School and High School, the schools will move to a hybrid model for two weeks. Students will attend school on Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday based on household last name. On Wednesdays, all students will have remote learning. This will reduce the number of students in the building to allow for increased social distancing. Facilities will also be deep cleaned on Wednesdays as well.
Level III, or Substantial Spread, is a move to remote learning. All students in the school will have online instruction lead by their classroom teachers. There will be high expectations concerning participation, attendance, and completion of high quality assignments. Grades will be given based upon student performance in those areas. The decision to come off of remote learning will be made when the number of quarantines and positive cases indicate a safe return.
Plans are subject to change as new information become available.
“After talking with Dr. Voccio at DPH (Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District), and our board attorney, we felt like, due to the Labor Day holiday and people traveling, it might be safer to go to Sept. 10 and then look at our numbers that week,” Superintendent Josh Ingle said.
Ingle noted that this plan allows as many kids to stay in school as possible. The reason why there is a Level II procedure for both the elementary schools and the Middle and High School, is because students in elementary school stay with the same teacher all day, so it is easier to quarantine just a single classroom.
“The easiest thing for us to have done was to close down the whole school system, but when we looked at the numbers, they didn’t warrant closing down all of DES. It allows those kids to come to school. We want to keep kids in school as much as possible and still maintain safety,” Ingle said. “Research shows that student learning is much more effective in person. We wanted to come up with a plan that would allow us to social distance and we felt like this was our best plan. We didn’t have this plan last year, because roughly 20 percent of students were virtual. This year there are more students in school, and social distancing can be quite difficult.”
In addition, during the Level II schedule, if a student is in the classroom on Monday and Tuesday, they will participate in remote learning on Wednesday, and they will be given enough assignments for Thursday and Friday.
“Teachers will be available for students to check in with,” Ingle said. “I am thankful we have the technology to allow us to do this.”
Meals will be available for pick up. For example, during the Level II schedule, if a student is in the classroom on Monday and Tuesday, on Tuesday afternoon they will be sent home with three days’ worth of meals for the rest of the week.
If approximately 25 percent of the school population is at home, either because of a positive case or quarantined, then the school will consider going to Level II. If that number goes over 50 percent, then Level III will be considered.
“We wanted some flexibility to make a decision. That is why we didn’t put a number to it,” Ingle said.
As of press time on Monday, Aug. 23, there are 48 students and nine staff with positive COVID-19 cases. There are 116 Dade Elementary Students in quarantine.
Reporting of COVID-19 cases and quarantines runs Saturday through Friday, and Ingle noted that the numbers are reported each Monday in his Superintendent Newsletter, which can be found online at dadecountyschools.org/dcs, by clicking on “Administration,” and then “Superintendent.”