While the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise locally, the Douglas County School System plans to continue with in-person learning after Thanksgiving, officials said.
There had been speculation by some that the school system planned to go to online-only learning after the holiday. Students and staff have all of next week off for Thanksgiving.
However, Superintendent Trent North said the school system will resume in-person classes as planned after the break on Monday, Nov. 30.
In the two-week reporting period from Oct. 31 through Nov. 13, the state Department of Public Health shows Douglas County with a case rate of 214 per 100,000 people. In the two weeks through Nov. 5, the case rate in Douglas had been at 191 per 100,000. The state considers anything over 100 cases per 100,000 people as high transmission.
Asked if the school system had a magic number for COVID-19 spread in Douglas that would prompt schools to go online-only, North said it did not.
“There is not a magic number that will dictate when or whether we will transition to a digital learning format,” North said. “Instead of focusing on numbers, we are focused on assessing our ability to manage any cases that may occur in our school system.
“Public Health officials have stated that the safest place for students and teachers is at school, and we agree. Schools and classrooms have the least cases of transmission or spread of COVID-19. When CDC guidance is followed, children have less of a risk of contracting coronavirus while in school.”
Portia Lake, spokesperson for the school system, said “students will return to in-person learning after Thanksgiving” and she pointed out North had outlined a plan during an October school board meeting for the remainder of the first semester.
That plan, which was approved by the school board, states that students will continue to have the option of in-person learning Monday through Thursday, with all students learning online from home on Fridays so schools can be deep cleaned. The plan is in accord with the Learning by Design document, which designates a hybrid learning model as long as the community spread of COVID-19 remains in the high range.
Toward the end of the first semester, COVID data and other factors will be analyzed for the second semester, according to the plans adopted by the school board.
The school system began reopening schools buildings after Labor Day to those students who wanted to return to in-person learning. DCSS also offers a hybrid School-Based Digital Learning model and an online-only FLEX Academy.
The school system reports the number of new cases by school each week on Friday afternoons. The newest report for the week ending Nov. 20 had not been published by Sentinel press time Friday.
But the report for the week ending Nov. 13 shows there were 35 new cases within the school system. The school with the most new cases last week was Lithia Springs High School with six, followed by New Manchester High School with five, Alexander High with four and Douglas County High with three new cases. All other schools in the district had two or fewer new cases.
Dr. Janet Memark, medical director for Cobb & Douglas Public Health, said earlier this month that there hasn’t been a lot of transmission of COVID-19 within local schools because students are required to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
The full Learning By Design plan, COVID case counts in local schools and other information are all available on the school system’s website at dcssga.org/school_reopening.