TCSS has tough decision to make

Published 4:24 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

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The Troup County School System is in a very unenviable place at the moment.

Thousands of students are out of school, hundreds of employees are sitting at home and the state faces uncertainty about its public safety more than ever before.

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow, reaching 420 cases Friday afternoon, based on the latest figures by the Georgia State Department of Public Health. There seems to be no slowing of the increasing numbers of cases. Troup County has two confirmed cases based on those numbers Friday.

On March 13, the school system decided to close down schools for two weeks based on Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s recommendation to close schools for two weeks. While TCSS followed that recommendation, putting students out until March 27, not all schools in Georgia took that advice. As the number of cases continued to climb, Kemp then signed an executive order mandating all schools close until March 31.

March 31 is a Tuesday, meaning students can return to school in the eyes of the state on Wednesday, April 1. At least, as of right now. TCSS’s spring break is expected to be held from April 6 through April 10. That would put students in the classroom for three days before another break.

TCSS Superintendent Dr. Brian Shumate discussed with the board Thursday the possibility of returning to school April 1 without asking for a decision to be made. The overall sentiment seemed to be that the board should wait and see how things progress throughout the next week before making a decision.

We agree with that strategy. It would be a bad move to start predicting the future and pretend like we know how this thing will work out even by Monday. Shumate said the school system can always call a special meeting to extend the closure if necessary or do nothing and open schools up again on April 1.

However, he thinks more direction will come down from the state level, and so do we.

Shumate said he’s been on both sides of the issue. On one hand, he said students returning to the classroom, even for three days, would be good for them to return to a sense of normalcy, see their friends and let parents return to work.

On the other hand, Shumate said the system could give the students a four-week break by closing school April 1 through April 3, with spring break following. He said the school system could then be 100 percent sure it’s done what it could to keep the community safe.

It’s easy to see both sides of the problem.

Ultimately, we’d guess the decision will be taken out of the school system’s hands by the governor’s office in the coming days. However, it’s hard not to lean to the side of caution when dealing with so much uncertainty today.