Dear Thomas County Schools Families,
We only have a few weeks before school is scheduled to start back. I realize that this Back to School season is weighing heavily on your minds, as it is ours. Please rest assured that the leadership of our system has been working hard to stay current with agency guidelines related to the safe operation of schools. We are continuing to use the guidelines received from the Georgia Department of Education, Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare for the reopening of our schools. One of the most challenging aspects of this work is that the guidelines and restrictions continue to evolve. We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding during this time as we continue to plan for a safe re-entry for all students and staff.
We are planning for our schools to reopen for in-person instruction for our students as scheduled on August 3rd.
We hope that the majority of our families will feel safe returning to a fairly traditional school setting with health screening and enhanced hygiene measures in place. Thomas County Schools will be implementing additional measures to address COVID-19 concerns and to keep our students and staff as safe as possible within the school environment.
Our teachers are being provided opportunities to hone their on-line instructional skills to supplement traditional face-to-face instruction and to provide the possibility of a smooth transition to home-based instruction should short or long-term school closures be ordered at any point during the school year.
We understand that some families may not yet feel comfortable returning their child to the traditional school setting. For those families, we are offering two options for home-based instruction through Thomas County Schools.
Remote Classroom Option: This option will provide an opportunity for your child to be enrolled in a virtual classroom taught by a Thomas County teacher, teaching at your child’s normal school. Instruction will be aligned with instruction being received in other Thomas County classrooms on the same grade-level. This remote learning will not look the same as the virtual experience this past spring. The expectations and rigor will mirror face-to-face instruction, and virtual students will have a full school day Monday-Friday. Students will access their classes at set times online each school day. Our system-employed virtual teacher(s) will be able to provide the grade level instruction and digital learning support that will meet your child’s needs. The school system will provide a laptop and will assist as much as possible with establishing an Internet connection if needed. Teachers will also be available to meet in person, on the phone, or on-line as needed to address individual student needs and concerns. This option will provide the smoothest transition back to the traditional classroom at any time when you and your child are ready since the instruction will be provided on the same schedule as that being taught in the classrooms at your child’s school.
Virtual Program Option: Parents who feel certain that they will want their child to study in a virtual program for at least a full semester (through December) may select the Thomas County Virtual Program to access their coursework through one of our partnering online programs, such as Georgia Virtual School (GAVS) or K12. This option utilizes our system’s virtual coordinator to facilitate your child’s learning, but not our system employed teachers. Your child will receive instruction by teachers employed by GAVS and K12. Since this is a program and not a school, students will maintain official enrollment at their districted school and therefore be able to participate in extracurricular activities. Students will need to work on their assigned courses on a daily basis, but will not necessarily follow a set daily timed schedule as required in the remote classroom option. As daily instruction under this model will not be aligned with other Thomas County classrooms, transitions out of or into this program are encouraged only at the change of the semester in January. The Virtual Program Option should be considered a commitment for at least half the school year. Virtual program teachers are not under the supervision of Thomas County School System administrators.
You may have heard about other models of instruction that are being considered by schools across the state and around the country. These models include a hybrid approach with students attending school on alternating days or weeks, a possible gradual return, or morning and afternoon only sessions. We are studying these options and will be prepared to consider them if we feel that conditions make them appropriate for our school community.
In order to help us better plan and prepare for the new school year, please complete the Return-to-School Survey that will be available from June 24 – July 3. You will be asked to pick one of the options listed above for your child(ren). Your selection(s) can change as we move closer to the starting of school. However, your survey results will help us better prepare in meeting the needs of your child(ren) either in-person or virtually.
Return-to-School Survey link: https://forms.gle/9TbC6jGXQ5Ebcw4LA
The conditions of COVID-19 and the decisions that schools need to consider continue to evolve. Through the next few weeks we will be sharing updates with you as we gear up for the start of the next school year. We will continue to collaborate with and coordinate our Back to School plan with the local and regional Department of Health agencies. Please know that you have a dedicated group of educational professionals working extremely hard to proactively navigate the complexities of this coming school year.
Our highest priority continues to be the well-being of our students, staff, and community. If you have any questions please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Buzz Line at 229-413-1234 and one of our team members will assist you.
Please stay safe and well. We miss our students and our Thomas County Schools families and we look forward to learning together either in-person or virtually again soon.
Lisa Williams, Ed.D.
Guidelines for Reopening Thomas County Schools