Five months after schools closed in March, students in Dalton Public Schools will be returning to school on Monday, Aug. 31.
When we closed schools on March 13, we had no way of knowing how or when we would return to school. Now, as we count down the days to the first day of school, I feel extremely confident that our district has put together a plan that will both keep our students and staff safe and allow us to continue to provide a world-class education for all of our students.
Knowing that every family’s circumstances are different, we offered each student a choice between returning to school in-person or virtually. Our virtual option will be available all year for students in pre-k through 12th grade. As of right now, 35% of our students have chosen our virtual option and 65% have chosen to come in-person.
For those students who chose in-person learning, we are going to begin in a hybrid model. Half of students who will be coming in-person will attend school on Monday and Tuesday, and the other half will attend on Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will be used for deep cleaning in-between the two groups. Students will work virtually on all days they’re not in school.
Our board of education has set an aspirational date of Sept. 14 for our hybrid students to all return to class five days a week, however, that date is only a goal. We will make an announcement by Sept. 8 on whether we will continue with hybrid learning or not depending on the situation in our schools and our community at that time.
This year, we are proud to be able to provide all of our students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade with devices, either laptops or tablets, to complete their virtual assignments.
Each of our schools has been equipped with plenty of personal protective equipment to keep everyone safe! Every student and staff member will receive two reusable, washable face masks to wear throughout the day. Staff members will also receive face shields. We have a limited number of disposable masks available at each school should anyone forgets their mask. Every classroom in the district has hand sanitizer, spray bottles of cleaner and microfiber towels.
Every day, before students and staff enter school buildings, they will have their temperatures taken. We have currently hired 22 part-time health screeners to help us with this process. We are still hiring for these positions, and anyone interested can apply on our district website (www.daltonpublicschools.com).
We are thankful to our community partners and local industry for helping support us in the effort to return to school safely and successfully. Shaw Industries provided several trucks to go to Macon to pick up supplies from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) to deliver to all schools in the North Georgia region. Mohawk Industries donated bottles of hand sanitizer for our district, and Chick-fil-A is currently fundraising to help purchase reusable water bottles for our students.
We are also incredibly thankful to the North Georgia Health District and Hamilton Medical Center for their advice and guidance during this planning process this summer. We will continue to consult with them as we move forward.
Even though this year will certainly be a new normal, we are excited to welcome students back in just a few more days. Our teachers are already back in school and working hard to prepare for this school year. Whether our students will be joining us in-person or virtually, we know our teachers are looking forward to connecting with them once again.
Tim Scott is superintendent of Dalton Public Schools.