OUR OPINION: Parents need to do their homework on TCSS back to school options

Published 9:25 am Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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During Monday night’s school board meeting, the Troup County School System unveiled its tentative plan for restarting school.

We use the word tentative because the official plan will be unveiled on Wednesday, and the board will vote whether or not to approve it Thursday. 

The plan gave students two options — a traditional schooling plan or an online plan. The traditional plan is essentially as close to “normal” as we have right now, meaning going to a school building, sitting in a classroom, etc.  The online option, called the Troup County Virtual Academy, would be a full online model. In the online model, students in middle and high school would be assigned a specific subject each weekday for synchronized learning, which means every student in the virtual learning program would be studying the subject at the same time.

There would also be asynchronized activities throughout the week, which can be completed separately but would have a deadline. 

The two choices leave parents with a difficult decision to make over the next few days. 

TCSS used community and staff survey data to come up with the two schooling options presented Monday, which makes a ton of sense. Once again, the school board and school system showed that they are working with the community to do what works best. Most people surveyed wanted their kids to go to school in a traditional format in the fall, but others preferred an online model and TCSS delivered on both.  But that data is from last month, which in a COVID-19 world feels like a year ago, so who knows how it will change now that it’s no longer a hypothetical discussion. 

Also as part of Monday’s meeting, TCSS also discussed its plans for if a student contracts COVID-19 and how it’ll handle keeping other staff members and students safe. We’ll likely know more when the final plan is unveiled.

But in a school system of 12,000 students, plus hundreds of staff members, it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be a case at some point. That’s something parents have to realize.  

Parents that do send their children to school have to be prepared for when there is a case of COVID-19, and we don’t mean being ready to post it on Facebook and stir up the whole county. Instead, we mean knowing that it’s possible and understanding how TCSS will respond once there is a positive case. 

Parents who choose in-person instruction need to be comfortable with the school system’s course of action when and if a COVID-19 case occurs in a school. If you’re going to immediately want to pull your student out of in-person instruction if one child in their school comes down with COVID-19, you might want to strongly consider the virtual academy. 

Parents need to run through these scenarios now, not wait for them to happen. 

If there are multiple cases of COVID-19 in a school, there’s a chance a whole wing of a school may be closed, or even a whole school. 

TCSS is going to train all teachers for the virtual academy, just in case everyone ends up needing online instruction. The school system is trying to be ready to evolve as things change, and parents need to be ready too.

This is a difficult time for parents, who want to do what’s best for their student’s health short-term and long-term, and we understand that. With that mind, we encourage parents to review TCSS’ entire plan and get any questions answered before making a decision. We recommend sitting down your children and talking them through the plans. Even younger children need to understand how this will work, even if the parents will ultimately be making the decision. There was a lot of information presented Monday night, and it’s worth reviewing a few times. TCSS has given parents options. 

Now, parents have to do their homework and decide what’s best for their children.