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Gwinnett Schools May Transition to In-Person Instruction, over several weeks

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Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) announced August 4 that they will be transitioning into in-person instruction sooner than previously thought. Below is the transcript of the “Open Letter to the Community and Employees of Gwinnett County Public Schools”.

In March 2020 our world, our lives, and our work were turned upside down by a new coronavirus that had spread across our nation. Like school districts everywhere, Gwinnett County Public Schools responded quickly to keep students learning, while keeping them and their teachers safe. Amid tremendous uncertainty and constantly changing conditions, we did our best to finish the school year strong, always hoping the COVID-19 situation would improve dramatically before time to begin the new school year in August.

Today, just eight days before school starts, there is still much uncertainty surrounding this virus, and more challenges have emerged as we wrestle with determining the best plan for opening school. That decision is made harder because there is easy access to a lot of conflicting information about COVID-19 from multiple sources, while the airwaves are filled with reports about increasing cases in Gwinnett County. We must balance that information against the concerns of parents who fear for their children’s educational progress, as well as their own employment, and need for us to bring their children back to school. At the same time, we must care for our people, many of whom have understandable concerns about returning to work when they feel the virus risk remains high for them and their families.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education and I know that the decisions we make carry high stakes for our families, students, employees, and community members. That is why we have listened to you, read your emails, and reached out to you for input as we developed possible plans for the start of school. Those plans, out of necessity, have changed from time to time, but our steadfast goal has not. We have stated from the beginning of the COVID crisis that in-person instruction for every student is what we prefer and would work to achieve. That remains our primary objective, and is the focus of this letter.

We will begin to implement in-person instruction for students whose parents desire it, and do so as soon and as safely as possible. Here is what you need to know about our plans.

We announced on July 20 that, due to the increasing spread of COVID-19 in the county, our schools would open with 100% digital instruction for all students. Teachers would deliver that instruction from their school sites beginning August 12. That plan remains in effect. Simultaneously, we will take steps to gradually transition to a blend of in-person and digital learning for students, based on their parents’ choices. Our hope is that shortly after the school year starts, we can begin to honor the choices parents made in July for either in-person or digital instruction for their children. A letter confirming the parent’s choice for each child will be sent by mid-August.

Student and staff safety will be the paramount factor in determining the pace at which we will move. We plan to begin small, bringing in a limited number of grade levels at first, then adding more grades on a staggered basis. As we have done throughout the past months, we will rely on guidance from health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Gwinnett County Department of Public Health, as well as the Georgia Department of Education, in making that determination.

How might this plan work? The table below represents a “best-case scenario” for beginning the transition for families who want us to provide in-person instruction. Adjustments to the dates and the grade levels listed may be necessary based on the still-fluid COVID-19 situation in Gwinnett County. Regardless of the timeline, we will monitor the local conditions on a regular basis, and with guidance from our health partners, will either slow down the return to school or continue with the plan accordingly. Updates to the plan will be communicated promptly and as far in advance as possible so families and employees have time to prepare. At all times, extensive protective measures will be in place to sanitize our facilities, maintain social distance to the fullest extent possible, and make the return to school safe for children and adults. (A list of these protective measures is posted on the GCPS website.)

Our starting point for providing in-person instruction is outlined in this chart. Actual Starting Dates will be influenced by guidance from the health and educational organizations listed above.

Starting DateElementary School GradesMiddle School GradesHigh School GradesSpecial Education
August 12All grades digitalAll grades digitalAll grades digitalAll classes digital
August 26*K and 1st grade in person6th grade in person9th grade in personAll self-contained  classes in person**
September 2*K, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades in person6th and 7th grades in person9th and 10th grades in personAll self-contained classes in person**
September 9*All grades in personAll grades in personAll grades in personAll self-contained classes in person**

** Includes students who spend the majority of the day in a small-group setting: Severe/Moderate & Mild Autism; Severe/Profound, Moderate & Mild Intellectual Disabilities; Emotional-Behavioral Disabilities; ADAPT; GNETS; Visual Impairment; Moderate Visual Impairment; Orthopedic Impairment; Significant Developmentally Delayed; Specific Learning Disabilities (self-contained); Deaf/Hard of Hearing; Early Childhood Program (special needs pre-school).

School district leaders continue to hold discussions about how best to address the needs, as well as the concerns, of our students’ families and our employees. We understand that no plan will be universally popular with all stakeholders. But we are committed to doing what we believe is best for students in terms of their health, safety, and education. We ask for your patience, understanding, and cooperation in helping us achieve a positive, safe start to the new school year for Gwinnett’s children.

J. Alvin Wilbanks, CEO/Superintendent

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Education

NHS National Merit Semifinalists

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Congratulations to our Norcross High School National Merit Semifinalists:  Cooper Allen, Aidan Dealy, Elliott Januzelli, Martin Lachev, Abby Lewis, Eric Van Ness. 

Semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program were determined by students’ scores on the 2019 Preliminary SAT. About 1.5 million high school juniors took the PSAT–and fewer than one percent of high school seniors qualified to be semifinalists.

To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and the high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2021 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July.

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Education

Research-based classes online on infant, toddler, preschooler care at ParentEducate.com

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Gone are the days of wondering, “What are my child’s developmental milestones?” and “How do I keep my child safe indoors?” Starting today, parents across the country can conveniently become pros on infant to school-aged care with ParentEducate.com‘s engaging new online courses. All of ParentEducate.com’s classes feature science-based techniques and advice. 

The company behind ParentEducate.com, ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI), is an accredited online trainer of early childhood educators. CCEI has taken its top-rated courses and adapted them into short courses for parents.

“There are countless pieces of information about parenting online,” says Maria Taylor, president of ChildCare Education Institute. “We’re thrilled to offer ParentEducate.com, a trustworthy, reputable place where parents can go to learn infant, toddler and preschool care and development from the same institute that trains early childhood educators.”

ParentEducate.com’s course library contains an ever-growing catalog of 50+ online classes based on the same vetted techniques and insights that were, until now, only available to professionals. The courses cover a wide variety of infant- and toddler-focused topics including Preventing SIDS, The Basics of Brain Development and Car Seat Safety.

Each brief course takes about 20-30 minutes to complete and can be paused and resumed at any time.

Parents can sign-up for a monthly, quarterly or annual plan for as little as $4.99 a month, providing unlimited access to ParentEducate.com’s extensive course catalog. All web-based classes are accessible 24/7 on any device (desktop, tablet or phone), allowing families to work at their own pace from wherever they are. For those interested in trying a course before subscribing, ParentEducate.com offers a free seven-day trial period to test their library. 

For more information or to try ParentEducate.com yourself, click here.

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Education

How are Gwinnett Schools Handling the COVID Challenge and Hybrid Learning with Mary Kay Murphy

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E-SPLOST

How are Gwinnett Schools handling COVD19, distance, and in-person learning, and what is the future direction they should be taking. We interview current school board member Mary Kay Murphy (District 3)

Resources:
Website: MaryKayWorks.com
2020 E-SPLOST Election

Where to find the topic in the podcast, Timestamp:

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:03:40] – About Mary Kay
[00:08:19] – E-SPLOST on the Ballot
[00:14:14] – Challenges for the Next Six Months
[00:21:37] – Getting the Technology to Students
[00:26:17] – How the Board has Handled COVID
[00:30:48] – Pay for Drivers and Teachers
[00:32:39] – School Resource Officers
[00:34:11] – School Board Transparency
[00:37:46] – Closing

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