A final decision whether to reopen public schools in McDuffie County for in-person classes or to continue with online instruction will not be made until the end of the month, according to a news release from the district administration office.

The release, which was shared with the Progress and posted to the school system Facebook page, states school officials will base their decision “on guidance available at that time from state agencies as well as community data regarding COVID-19.”

Schools across the state shut down physical classrooms in March, per Georgia Gov. Kemp’s emergency directive and recommendations from the Georgia Department of Education at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. McDuffie County schools maintained online course instruction March through May.

The 2020-2021 school year is officially set to start on Aug. 3. An open house is scheduled for July 30. The open house might be held virtually.

Currently, school administrators are reviewing two possible models for instruction: the traditional and the virtual.

Should students return to the physical classroom, they would be required to follow various precautions to protect against COVID-19. These include wearing facial masks when on campus or riding the bus; practicing social distancing in hallways and school common areas; limiting student movement and no sharing of equipment or supplies inside the classroom. In addition, non-essential visitors would not be permitted on school grounds and stringent cleaning protocols would be initiated inside school buildings.

Should virtual learning be continued, the following procedures would be implemented: Kindergarten through high school students would access instruction through Google Classroom; teachers would post assignments and provide direct instruction through recorded videos and live video chats; students would earn grades based on mastery of the material in a specified timeline as issued by their teacher; and student attendance would be recorded during virtual learning. To assist students who need resources to access online learning, Chromebooks would be available for checkout (based on available inventories) and a limited number of personal hotspots would be available for checkout to families with no Internet access.

In addition, the system would provide a number of smart buses to go into neighborhoods with up to 60 devices so students can access virtual instruction.

Parents are encouraged to complete an online survey to assist educators with their school reopening planning efforts.

Shortly before school officially begins, the Class of 2020 at Thomson High School can expect to participate in a formal graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 25.

“While it is the hope to hold a traditional graduation ceremony, the type of ceremony – virtual or traditional – will not be determined until closer to the actual date,” reads a post on the THS web page.

Should students or parents have questions on commencement, go to Questions4THS@mcduffie.k12.ga.us.

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