GAINESVILLE – The Hall County Board of Education was in full compliance with best practice recommendations from the CDC for social distancing Monday evening as its regularly scheduled meeting was live-streamed over the internet.
The YouTube broadcast began with Superintendent Will Schofield and three of the five board members in attendance, quietly watching Governor Brain Kemp on TV. (Board members Bill Thompson and Sam Chapman were self-quarantined and participated from home via internet and telephone.)
Kemp was giving an update on the status of the battle to stop the spread of COVID-19 across Georgia and some of the new statewide policy implementations going forth.
Kemp’s speech ended and Schofield said, “I’d say we are already where we need to be for the time being.”
Schofield reported that in addition to all 37 county schools being closed and sanitized, so was the Central Office location on Green Street. Instead of students reporting to a school building for their education, the schools were reaching out to the students in the safety of their homes using an application referred to as Digital Learning.
The application had been used in limited fashion in the past during snow, ice and other natural disaster events, but now the online learning management system was in daily operation, and expected to stay that way for several more weeks at the minimum.
“When we’ve had technology utilized for one day at a time, for instance for a snow day, it was easy to hide, if you will, and just determine that you weren’t going to do much with it,” Schofield began. “This, however, has been a very healthy opportunity for everybody to have to step up to the plate to make sure that we are delivering these resources, lessons and interactions on a consistent basis.”
“That’s what’s different; in the past it’s been something that was over so quickly,” Schofield added. “It’s (now) curriculum continuation. So our goal is for teachers to continue teaching for as long as this goes on in the same way that they would have…this is radically different than what we have seen on snow days in the past.”
Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Kevin Bales, agreed as he spoke from a remote location. “We want to work to advance the curriculum…just like it would be if we were in school. We’re trying to do a lot more than just remediation right now; we’re trying to move forward.”
Even when students are allowed back to the classroom, Schofield said, the Coronavirus experience will prove invaluable. “We will never go back to school the way it was after this incident. This is going to be one of those defining moments where teachers and students have opportunities to learn differently, and we will be better because of it.”
Schofield then added that the spring graduation ceremony will go on, even if it has to be rescheduled. “We realize just how special and how important graduation is to these students that have put thirteen years of their lives into schooling. At this time we’re just kind of watching circumstances; we’re not postponing, we are not canceling graduation, we’re going to do everything we can to have graduation for these students who have earned it, who worked so hard.”
“If the health situation is such that we can’t have them in May, we’ll certainly look and see if we can have them in June or July, or even possibly August.”
Board members did handle other matters of business for the district besides Coronavirus-related items at Monday’s meeting:
The Lanier College and Career Academy branding and logo design was approved.
The board approved $66,000 of ESPLOST funds for the installation of water bottle refilling stations.They will be located in the vicinity of the cafeterias and the gymnasiums in all schools.
The board authorized spending up to $415,000 of funds donated by the Ivester Foundation for renovations at the Howard E. Ivester Early College Center, formerly Jones Elementary School.