The Clarke County School District Board of Education voted to delay the start of school until Sept. 8 in a Thursday meeting. Teachers and staff will begin work on July 27 as previously planned.
The revision to the calendar passed 8-1. The lone dissenter was Antwon Stephens, who originally requested the Thursday special meeting. Stephens expressed concern that a September start date wouldn’t be sufficient to account for the people at risk for severe complications from COVID-19.
Chief academic officer Brannon Gaskins presented the board with the pros and cons of starting school at a later date. Interim superintendent Xernona Thomas, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 and is now at home, was absent.
“This gives us additional time to select virtual teachers based on students’ needs,” Gaskins said. “We want to be really, really thoughtful about selecting those virtual teachers and making sure that it meets the diverse needs of our school populations.”
The delayed start will allow the district to assess the impact of the University of Georgia starting school.
Some of the cons Gaskins presented included hardships for families in need of child care and an unbalanced semester that ends in January. In-person parent teacher conference days were eliminated to accommodate the delay.
Thanksgiving break and winter break will be unaffected by the change. Spring break will now be from April 2 through April 9.
The rules regarding students wearing masks was also discussed at the meeting. District 5 representative Kara Dyckman asked whether or not students would be wearing masks in classrooms even while sitting about 6 feet apart.
“It’s not going to be a perfect system, and there’s going to be risks,” said Amy Roark, CCSD director of nursing. “But it’s my recommendation that masks be mandatory for students and staff regardless of the ability to social distance. There’s going to be exceptions that rule of course. [There are] considerations to be taken into account, medical exceptions.”