The coronavirus pandemic is blamed for landing a one-two punch on the local school system at the end of 2020 and start of 2021. McDuffie County school administrators announced Monday that students who had been attending school in person prior to the winter break would return to school virtually this week. This decision was made because of a recent sharp rise in possible COVID-19 

cases among staff members, confirmed School Superintendent Dr. Mychele Rhodes. School employees that may have been exposed to the coronavirus are currently in quarantine, Rhodes said. All students will learn from home now through Jan. 15, with a projected in-person school start of Jan. 19. School sports was also impacted by the virus. On Dec. 30, 2020, the Board of Education voted unanimously to remove Larry Dunn from the athletic director position during an online emergency meeting called to discuss personnel. The vote came after a closed session. No evidence was presented when the school board re-entered open session. Dunn is an assistant principal at Thomson High School. Board members then voted to name Cecil Strong interim athletic director. Strong serves as the district’s auxiliary services director. He will receive the remainder of the supplement salary that goes with the athletic director position, school administrators informed the board. Rhodes told the Progress this week that the school system’s pandemic health safety protocols were allegedly not followed during a Dec. 26 Thomson High School basketball game. Numerous posts on social media suggest that an alleged failure to enforce social distancing factored into Dunn’s removal as AD. THS cancelled this past weekend’s basketball games. Classes, however, are not cancelled. Students are still expected to engage in online instruction during the next two weeks. “The additional time is not intended to be an extension of the holiday break,” states the school system’s news release. “Attendance during these two weeks is mandatory and will be determined by participation in sessions and completion of assignments. Please ensure your child logs into Google Classroom to access live and recorded instruction and to complete assignments.” The district announced winter 2020 end-of-course testing was suspended and make up sessions would be rescheduled later this month. Questions about testing can be directed via e-mail to THS assistant principal Sonya Strong at strongs@mcduffie.k12.ga.us. Students needing to access wi-fi can connect to the Internet at the following locations: Calvary Baptist Church, Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, Dearing Pointe and Springfield Baptist from 8:30-11:30 a.m.; Fort Creek Baptist Church, Pitts Street Park, Marshall Baptist Church and the Boys and Girls Club from 1-3 p.m.; Thomson Villas from 8 a.m.-noon; Rollingwood Apartments from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and from 4:30-7:30 p.m.; Sweetwater Activity Center from 1:30-4:30 p.m.; and Happy Valley Store from 8:30 a.m.-noon and from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The school system also will continue to feed students. The McDuffie County School System Transportation Department will deliver breakfast and lunch meals at 10 a.m. each day, based on previous requests made by families, according to the district release. Additional meal requests can be made to Christie Cook at 706-986-4027. “The district sincerely appreciates the understanding of its families as we strive to keep students, staff and our community safe,” states the release.