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TCSS superintendent gives COVID-19 presentation

Troup County School System Superintendent Dr. Brian Shumate discussed a COVID-19 update in the schools Tuesday morning during the Troup County Chamber of Commerce Early Bird Breakfast. 

“I would say this community has done remarkable work,” Shumate said. “Two thirds of this county is now back in school. It took some courage, a lot of people and a lot of community support, but we have been in school since Aug. 17.” 

Students are beginning their 22nd week of in person and virtual learning.

“Our kids need us,” Shumate said. “These teachers are out there working every day. We’re opening our doors because when kids are sitting home for 10 or 11 months with very little interaction with other human beings, they suffered all kinds of ways. Physically, nutritionally, socially, emotional health and more.” 

Shumate said they are following every possible safety protocol they can, including constantly cleaning, masking up, taking temperatures, tracking cases and spraying the busses every night. 

“Our numbers are actually coming down right now,” Shumate said. “We had a few sketchy moments right between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We delayed a week coming back from Christmas, which turned out to be very wise.” 

Shumate said other school systems are just now opening back up for in-person learning, including the school district he came from in Oregon.

“Our teachers and our staff have come back to work every day and get up and get ready and go,” Shumate said. “When we started in August, we were about 70 percent in-person and 30 percent virtual. Honestly, I was hoping that we would just make it to Labor Day, so we could get used to learning the new Canvas online platform.” 

There are approximately 12,000 students and 1,800 employees that make up TCSS. In October, TCSS saw 60 percent of students take part in in-person classes and 40 percent virtual. Students were offered the chance to return to the classroom after the first nine weeks. 

Until after Christmas, students were at 24 percent virtual. In February, the TCSS saw that percentage drop down to 18 percent virtual.

“It works for some kids, but it’s not for all kids,” Shumate said. “We know learning wise that for kids who are not with adults in the classroom i’s just hard. If they don’t have parents or adults at home, helping them every day, they fall further and further behind.” 

Shumate said they are planning for intensive summer school programs. 

“We have a lot of catching up to do,” Shumate said. “Even though we’ve been in school, we still have a lot of learning loss and a lot of gaps that we’re going to need to fill.”