When Butts County children return to school on Tuesday, Aug. 3, School Superintendent Dr. Todd Simpson is hoping their return will be as close to normal as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020.
“We are aiming for as close to a normal start as absolutely possible,” Simpson said. “Certainly, we will leave certain mitigation strategies in place like additional sanitizing stations, we’ll leave some water fountains closed, we’ll phase back in lunch, and masks will be optional, but other than that, we’re aiming for as close a start to a normal school year as we can possibly have, based on circumstances right now. I always leave that caveat out there that things can certainly change.”
Simpson speaks from experience. Last fall, school was expected to start on Aug. 4, with 65% of students in school and 35% electing to start virtually. But a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the county caused the school board to move the start back two weeks to Aug. 17, and to begin the first two weeks of school with all students remaining at home in virtual learning.
In a marked difference this year, 100% of students at the elementary level will start in school, with just a few on the secondary level starting in virtual classrooms.
“We did have an application process for any parents who might have been interested over the summer in continuing with a virtual option,” Simpson said. “The numbers just really didn’t support that at the elementary level. We did have a few more at the secondary level that we’re aiming to try to support, but very few.”
Open House at all of the schools will be Friday, July 30. At open house, each student will meet their teachers and will receive a backpack filled with school supplies. This year, thanks to funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the school system is providing the supplies for all of the estimated 3,500 students in the system.
For students in grades 3-12, those supplies will include a Chromebook device they can use both at school and home.
“We are moving forward with our One-to-One Initiative and officially rolling that out with grades 3-12, “ said Simpson. “Essentially, we’re providing Chromebook devices for all of our students in grades 3 through 12. Many of them have already used the devices. We’ve had the devices in our classrooms and in our school buildings for quite some time now, and have been ramping up. Of course, the pandemic accelerated acquiring those devices.
“We’re at the point now where we have enough devices available for all of our students in grades 3-12. Of course, the Google Classroom platform and other electronic platform have really become a part of what we do and how we provide resources for students, how students communicate, and how they interact with the curriculum. So we are moving forward with the opportunity for them to take those devices home that they’ve been using in school.”
Simpson added that they are ready to get students back in the buildings and learning.
“The theme is that we are aiming to be as normal as we possibly can while also looking to keep some of those best practices in place that we’ve been utilizing over the past year, but try to be as normal as we possibly can for our students,” he said. “We want to get everybody back in and we’re excited about getting started.:
Open House at Daughtry Elementary School, Jackson Elementary School, and Stark Elementary School will be from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, July 30. Open House at Henderson Middle School will be from 5-7 p.m., and Jackson High School will have Open House from 6-8 p.m.