TCSS announces it will close schools for two weeks

Published 6:51 pm Friday, March 13, 2020

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The Troup County School System Board of Education voted Friday to close all schools for two weeks starting Monday, March 16 through March 27, due to growing concerns about the COVID-19 virus.

Superintendent Dr. Brian Shumate said the current plan is for students to return to the classroom on March 30. The student will attend classes from March 30 through April 6, and the following week is spring break.

He said the missed days would not go against the school district financially. Additionally, the district will not be adversely affected by absenteeism when it comes to report cards. Shumate said as he understood it the district would also not have to make up the days at the end of the year.

According to Shumate, the point of closing school for two weeks is to keep clusters of people from getting together.

“Kids a lot of times don’t exhibit major symptoms, but they can be carriers of the virus,” Shumate said. “So, when you put large groups of people together, people may not be sick, but they may be carrying the contagion.”

The news of the closure comes a day after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recommended all school districts throughout the state consider a two-week closure of schools.

As for employees of the school system, Shumate said some employees will be on-call and those who have to miss work will not lose pay.

He said school-based employees could be asked to work on-call schedules or work from home. Custodial employees will be working full-time as the school will undergo a deep clean.

“We need to get our buildings closed down,” Shumate said. “We will be doing deep cleaning during that time.”

However, before the schools close completely, the superintendent said the buildings will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for parents to pick up essential medications and belongings.

Shumate also announced the school system would provide lunches for all students regardless of their free or reduced lunch status. He said it would be similar to the summer lunch program the school system offers. TCSS will provide a list of locations by noon on Saturday, March 14, 2020 on its website and on social media.

Also, Assistant Superintendent John Radcliffe said for those students who are unable to get to those locations, they can inform the school system and arrangements will be made to deliver the food. The lunch format will complete set up for on-the-go meals, and the school cafeterias will be closed.

During the closure, Shumate said electric tutorial services, as well as paper packets, will be available for students. However, the work will not be graded.

“We don’t want kids’ grades to suffer if they are not able to complete these tutorials,” he said. “But if parents want access to that, we certainly encourage that, but we don’t want to penalize kids if they don’t have the ability to get to the electronic services or to the school to get the print materials.”

Assistant Superintendent Penny Johnson said the supplemental materials would be geared toward preparing for the state tests.

“We don’t know exactly what this closure will do across the state, but it will have to be something we will have to wait and see,” Johnson said. “But we want to make sure our students have the opportunity to work on things while they are at home.”

Johnson said on a situational basis, parents who feel they can’t get to the schools to pick up paper materials and don’t have access to electronic copies can call the school and arrangements will be made.

“Anyone who is unable to get the site, we will make sure we get to them,” she said.

On Thursday, the school system announced it was cutting all international and out-of-state field trips. Shumate also said all athletic events have been canceled for the next two weeks. Moreover, all district events in the next week have been canceled, including the teacher of the year celebration scheduled for Wednesday. Shumate said it would be rescheduled. Callaway High School’s prom is still scheduled to happen on March 28. He said if plans have to change, it would be rescheduled.

Shumate said the district would continue to monitor the situation with the governor’s office and the state health department as the situation progresses.

“It’s a painful move for a lot of people,” he said. “But after listening to the epidemiologists, I’m getting it, and this makes some sense. Although I would rather have school, I don’t really think we can at this point.”

School Board member Joe Franklin said the move would impact a lot of people’s lives.

“This is a huge potential economic impact,” he said. “It is frustrating in one aspect, but it is necessary in another to try and do the right things to keep from getting into an even bigger mess. We know it is going to be frustrating for people.”

The school board agreed it will still host its work session at 5:30 p.m. on Monday but has canceled two hearings scheduled for that meeting.


LaGrange College

LaGrange College released a statement Friday afternoon stating its campus response team has decided that instruction will continue as usual on campus for the time being. The statement said the decision came after coordinating with state and local authorities and the head of Georgia Public Health Department District 4.

“With no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area, health officials believe that, for now, students are at minimal risk remaining on campus,” the statement said.

The statement said restrictions would be instituted for college events and travel, and any activity that requires external guests on campus will be canceled. Additionally, all college-sponsored travel is prohibited. The ban will be in effect until at least March 30 but will be reviewed weekly.

The statement said after the NCAA’s decision to cancel all championship events, the USA South Athletic Conference school presidents voted unanimously this afternoon to suspend all athletic competition for the remainder of the season.


West Georgia Technical College

West Georgia Technical College has decided to suspend classes and activities from March 16 through March 20 due to health issues and concerns from COVID-19, according to a statement from the college.

All campuses and locations will be closed. Employees – both faculty and staff – may be required to report at specific times during the week for planning or training purposes. Individual supervisors will contact employees directly, if necessary.

“While a variety of factors influenced this decision to close, be assured that the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is always our primary concern,” WGTC President Scott Rule said in a statement. “At this time, we do not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 connected to any of our students or employees.”

The statement said the college will remain in consultation with the Georgia Department of Public Health and other state and local authorities throughout the situation.

Students and employees should continue to monitor email and the WGTC website for current information and resources.


Lafayette Christian School

Lafayette Christian School Head of School Rene Gomez sent a statement to parents Friday afternoon informing them there are no plans to close the campus at this time.

“After seeking counsel from our school board and discussing the matter with school leadership, we collectively feel it is premature to close the school campus at this time,” he said. “We base this decision on the expert advice given to us by officials from the District 4 Public Health office.”

The school has enacted plans to cancel all events involving travel or large gatherings through the end of March. Additionally, large assemblies on campus will be adjusted to keep the gathering of student populations to smaller numbers, and guests will not be permitted beyond the front office through the month of March.

However, the statement said it is the parent’s decision to send their children to school.

“If you choose to keep your child at home during this time, there will not be an attendance penalty or academic consequences,” Gomez’s statement said.

He said if a parent plans to keep a child out of school, that the parent notifies the teacher.

“We will continue to monitor events on a day-to-day basis, stay in communication with public health officials, and disseminate information to you as soon as our initial plan changes,” the statement said. “This continues to be a fluid situation, but we are committed to providing you with accurate information in a timely manner.”


LaGrange Academy

LaGrange Academy announced Friday that it would move to a virtual school format beginning Monday until further notice. Students will not come to campus during virtual school.

In an email sent to parents Friday, the school told parents it would re-evaluate the situation on Friday, March 20, and then decide if it will continue in the virtual school format the following week.

According to Headmaster Brian Dolinger, all students are required to complete all activities and assignments.

This process will be different for each school level, but all divisions of the school will utilize Google Classroom as the primary method of communication with students and parents. Monday’s assignments will be posted by 3 p.m. on Sunday.

If a student has any personal items at school that need to be picked up, the office will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and then 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Dolinger said that a cleaning crew began Friday afternoon deep cleaning the building, including all knobs, chairs, desks and tables.


Point University

Point University announced on its website that it’s transitioning all on-campus instruction to online delivery beginning Monday, March 16, and continuing through April 10. Spring break will still be observed during April 6-10.

The statement said all departments and offices will remain open for normal operations, including the residential facilities and the dining hall. It said shuttle services will also continue as usual.

“We encourage students, who are able, to return home in order to increase social distancing,” the website said. “If you are not able to return home, we will keep residence halls and dining facilities open. During this period, we will be increasing the frequency of cleaning services in the residence facilities.”

Point has also postponed or move all university-sponsored events until further notice. Athletic conference decisions will guide our participation in athletic events. An announcement will be sent out once the conference decisions are made.

The university said events after April 10 will be assessed closer to time to determine if there is a need for cancellation or postponement.

Lastly, Point announced that all university international travel is cancelled. Travel to conferences and meetings with large gatherings is also cancelled.


Harris County and Heard County School Systems

Harris County School District will be closed from Monday, March 16, through Sunday, April 5, according to a Facebook post by the school system.

“Unless conditions change, students will return to school Monday, April 6,” the statement said. “After direction from the governor, the Harris County Board of Education and district administration determined that closing schools, and the resulting social distancing, will provide the safest alternative for our students and community.”

The post said learning packets for students would be distributed electronically and through hard copies. Additional information related to at-home classwork will be communicated soon. Anyone with questions is encouraged to call their school.

The Heard County School System also announced it would close for two weeks starting from March 16 through March 29 after Kemp’s news conference.