Gwinnett County Public Schools delays start of academic year, requires masks

Public schools in Gwinnett County will delay opening until Aug. 12 and will require everyone to wear face masks. 

The decision was passed down Tuesday during a meeting of the Gwinnett County Board of Education.

Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the delayed start will ensure all students, parents, faculty, and staff are familiar with the plan for the coming year as Georgia’s largest school district works to chart a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic. All staff will report on their regularly scheduled dates.

“In making these decisions, the board and school district staff did their due diligence and reviewed all relevant information concerning our people’s health, safety, and educational needs,” said Wilbanks.

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The school district admitted social distancing will be a challenge in school and on buses, but employees and students, as well as visitors to school facilities, must wear masks to help reduce the spread of disease.

For students unable or unwilling to follow the mask rule, officials suggested parents consider enrolling their child in digital learning. The district is making allowances for students and employees with known, documented health-related reasons for not being able to wear a mask.

“We balanced what we learned in that review with what we heard from parents and our employees in the feedback we asked them to provide,” Wilbanks said.

The traditional pre-planning time for teachers has also increased by five days to help prepare classrooms, digital instruction, give extra training, and take care of other needs that may arise during this challenging period.

The school district hopes to hold virtual “Meet Your Teacher” and “Open House” events as well as hold orientation meetings for new students choosing full-time digital instruction.

The board also decided the best course of action was to cancel in-person graduations scheduled for July 13-19 for the Class of 2020, citing the rise in coronavirus cases in the state.

“Ultimately, we made our decisions based on what we believe is in the overall best interest of the district’s students, families, and staff. In the weeks to come, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Gwinnett County and, if necessary, will revise our plans as conditions warrant,” Wilbanks said.

Parents can still choose between in-person or digital instruction for their children for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year. The deadline is July 10.

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