Oconee Co BOE updates school reopening plan

Some parents not happy

A parents group is planning a Wednesday protest in Oconee County, calling on the Oconee County School Board to take more measures to protect students when the new school year begins on August 5.

The Oconee County BOE has laid out its plans for the new school year on the School District’s website…

Approach

Oconee County Schools has continuously monitored federal, state, and local guidance regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the specific information that has been reviewed includes the Georgia Department of Education and Georgia Department of Public Health guidanceWorld Health Organization guidance, and CDC guidance. In addition to this guidance, the School Reopening Task Force met to discuss a variety of topics regarding school reopening. The task force was divided into four committees: Calendar Committee, Learning Continuity Committee, Human Resources Committee, and Infectious Disease Prevention Committee. These committees were comprised of district and school leaders with teacher input.  In addition, parent and employee feedback was crucial in planning for the August 5, 2020 reopening. There were two surveys disseminated. The first was feedback on distance/digital learning and the results are available here. The second was a survey on parents’ non-binding plans regarding in-person or distance/digital learning for Fall 2020. The results of that survey are available here. We appreciate all the stakeholder feedback that has been provided through a number of additional channels as well. Learning Options Two instructional models are available for students: in-person and distance/digital learning. Families do not have to choose the same instructional model for all of their children if they have multiple children enrolled in Oconee County Schools. Option 1: In-Person Learning Model Parents selecting Option 1 are choosing for their child to begin the school year with a return to the Traditional Learning Model of in-person instruction just as it was provided prior to the COVID pandemic with infection mitigation measures in place.

Traditional Learning Model: This is a traditional school experience with students beginning school in person and attending five days a week on a regular Monday through Friday schedule. However, if there is a significant increase in community spread of COVID-19, a Hybrid Learning Model or systemwide Distance/Digital Learning Model may be utilized. The degree of increased community spread would determine which of these models would need to be implemented. 

Hybrid Learning Model: In the event of increased community spread of COVID-19, OCS may transition to a hybrid learning model. Students would be divided into two groups (Hybrid 1 and Hybrid 2) and will attend school on a “Hybrid 1” schedule or a “Hybrid 2” schedule. The school system is exploring ways to ensure that students within the same family would be on the same schedule. The students will receive in-person instruction two days per week. On the other three days, students will participate in digital/distance learning experiences. The hybrid model allows for students to receive in-person instruction while significantly reducing the number of students in classrooms and allowing for more social distancing.

Full-Time Distance/Digital Learning Model: In the event of increased community spread of COVID-19, schools may be closed to students and the OCS Distance/Digital Learning Plan would be implemented. This plan was revised to incorporate lessons learned from our experience in the spring of 2020 and feedback from the parent, student, and staff survey on distance/digital learning. All K-12 students will have a device to take home during a school closure. External WiFi access points will be available in all school parking lots and buses parked around the county.

Option 2: Distance/Digital Learning Model Parents selecting Option 2 are choosing for their child to learn remotely from home. It is important that students and parents understand that distance/digital learning for the 2020-21 school year will not be structured like distance learning from this past spring. Expectations in terms of attendance, grading, and accountability will be the same for those students participating in digital/distance learning and in-person learning. Parent involvement is key to successful digital/distance learning as students will need parental assistance during the digital learning school day. Please carefully read the information below as a significant commitment will be needed by both students and parents in order to facilitate successful digital/distance learning. For students who choose to begin the semester with a Distance/Digital Learning model, middle/high school students must commit to the entire Fall semester. Elementary students must commit to 9 weeks at a time. Students enrolled in full-time distance learning can participate in extracurricular activities at their school. 

  • Reliable internet access is required in order to participate in digital learning and a district-issued device is available for each student.
  • Every student, regardless of grade level, will be expected to attend and adhere to the school board-approved academic calendar. Attendance will be recorded and assignments will be graded.
  • Core academic courses (social studies, science, math, and language arts/reading) will be available for all grade levels.
  • The school district will remain responsible for the education of students eligible for special education services with an individualized education program (IEP) that opt for digital/distance learning. Because digital/distance learning may affect how special education and related services are provided, the student’s IEP team will work to ensure that the student receives services to the most appropriate extent possible.
  • Students will be taught according to the Georgia Standards of Excellence and grades will be based on academic performance. 
  • Distance/digital learning will look different from the COVID-19 school closure and students can expect to be engaged for a full school day. The expectations and rigor will mirror in-person instruction, and distance/digital students will have a full school day Monday-Friday.
  • Students will be responsible for adhering to the procedures and guidelines located in the OCS Student Device Handbook and the Technology Usage Agreement. 
  • Oconee County Schools has identified WiFi Locations throughout the county. There will be external WiFi access points in every school parking lot.
  • For elementary school students choosing to begin the semester with distance/digital learning, the school system is planning to utilize Accelerate Education and instructional support from OCS teachers. 
  • Students will be enrolled in self-paced, on grade-level, online classes through an online learning management system called Accelerate Education. 
  • Students in grades K-5 will need significant assistance from a parent/adult in the home (approximately 2-3 hours each day of adult assistance). This adult will become the student’s Learning Coach.
  • If you are considering this option, it is essential that you watch this brief video about the role of the Learning Coach and the Accelerate Education model of delivering instruction. The Learning Coach website can be accessed here
  • While an OCS teacher will provide some support to K-5 students whose parents choose Option 2: Distance/Digital Learning Model, the teacher assigned may not be the teacher that the student would have if enrolled in in-person instruction or even a teacher assigned to your child’s school.
  • For middle and high school students choosing to begin the semester with distance/digital learning, the school system is planning to utilize Georgia Virtual School.
  • Georgia Virtual School (GaVS) is an online instructional program affiliated with the Georgia Department of Education. GaVS has over 100 course offerings and provides a certified teacher hired by the Georgia Department of Education. Students enrolled in Georgia Virtual School courses will not be assigned an OCS teacher for that course.
  • Students must be motivated, organized, self-disciplined, and supported. You will be contacted by someone at your OCS school to assist with enrollment once the commitment letter is received. You can register for courses here
  • Middle and high school students will be able to access a limited number of connections, electives, Advanced Placement, and CTAE courses.
  • GaVS does not provide advanced courses at the middle school level or honors courses at the high school level. However, Oconee County Schools will provide 6th and 7th grade Accelerated Math for distance/digital students. For 8th graders, the accelerated course is High School Algebra/Geometry A, which can be taken through GaVS. In addition, AP courses are available through GaVS.

Tim Bryant

Tim Bryant hosts Classic City Today, 6-10 weekday mornings on 98.7FM & AM 1340 WGAU in Athens.

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