Georgia task force to decide best approach to reopening schools

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines to reopen schools, a state-created task force is devising more specific options for Georgia.

Governor Brian Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced the creation of six K-12 Restart Working Groups to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Georgia’s K-12 schools and plan for a safe 2020-21 school year.

"We want the fall to be as safe and successful as possible. That is the focus not only from the governor and the school superintendent, but that is the charge we are giving these working groups. We are going to be looking at a lot of different scenarios. It may include a variety of options from a traditional school year to a virtual experience," said Chief of Staff Matt Jones, who works for Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods.

The governor's actions come the same week the CDC released new guidelines on how schools should safely reopen this fall. They've classified the return of students and staff in three different risk levels.

"We realize Georgia is not a one size fits all state, so our guidelines will be more flexible as number and outbreaks change," Mr. Jones remarked.

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Some of the CDC options on the table include daily temperature screenings, desks arranged six feet apart and facing the same direction, staggered arrival times, cafeterias and playgrounds closed, lunch in classrooms, and even school buses that leave every other row empty.

The governor's task force will likely encourage students and staff to stay at home when sick, wash hands frequently, and even wear cloth face coverings, especially for staff and older students, where the number of COVID-19 cases are high.

The working groups, which include teachers, school district staff, and public health officials along with representatives of education organizations, nonprofits, and state agencies, will focus on six key topics: school meals; distance learning and professional learning; connectivity and devices; mental health and wellness; supplemental learning; and facilities, equipment, and health guidelines.

The task force expects to release its more specific recommendations in early June.

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