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Gwinnett County Public Schools to require masks based on latest CDC guidance

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In response to the latest guidance for K-12 schools issued on Tuesday, July 27, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Gwinnett County Public Schools has updated its back-to-school plans to require masks. As of July 28, masks will be required for students, staff, and visitors to all Gwinnett County Public Schools’ facilities and on school buses, regardless of vaccination status. This decision takes into account current conditions, the rise in COVID-19 case rates in Gwinnett County, and the ineligibility of children age 12 and younger for the vaccine.

In announcing the district’s position, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks affirmed that Gwinnett County Public Schools will follow the CDC’s recommendations. “The facts and recommendations are clear… masks do make a difference and we must do all we can to keep students in school, in person.”

In addition to the CDC’s guidance calling for masks to be worn by everyone in the K-12 environment and recent recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the following considerations also played a role in today’s decision by district leaders:

– GCPS’ primary concern is the health and safety of students and staff.
– It is critical for students to be in school and to benefit from in-person instruction.
– Elementary students and young middle school students currently are not eligible to be vaccinated.
– Many GCPS students and employees who are eligible to be vaccinated are not vaccinated.
– The CDC and other health partners indicate wearing a mask is a key tool, even for vaccinated individuals, in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
– A federal executive order requires all students on school buses to wear masks.
– In the classroom setting, students who are identified as close contacts to a student who is positive for COVID-19 will not have to quarantine if both students are wearing masks. Quarantined individuals could be out of school for up to two weeks.

In light of the latest CDC guidance and the district’s decision to require masks, GCPS will allow families to make a change in their child(ren)’s instructional preference (either in-person or digital) through Monday, August 2. Families should contact their local school should they wish to make a change. In sharing why the district has set this deadline, Mr. Wilbanks explained, “We realize this does not allow families a lot of time to make this decision, but we must have this information by this date to ensure schools are staffed appropriately to serve students and student schedules are finalized prior to the start of school.”

Schools will communicate with their staff members about scheduling mask breaks during the school day, providing times when students can take off their masks. In addition to these breaks and during lunch, children will be allowed to take off their masks while they are outside (on the playground, etc.) Students in band and PE will have times during the day in which they will not wear masks (i.e. cardio exercises, etc.). Accommodations will be made for students and employees unable to wear a mask for documented medical reasons, for instance, a pulmonary condition such as asthma or sensory issues.

Mr. Wilbanks indicated that, in light of today’s announcement by the CDC and the steady upward trend in cases in Gwinnett, this is the most prudent course of action. He said, “A layered approach is needed to keep our students safe and in school. Masks are one of the tools proven to be effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. It is time for us to mask up and take advantage of vaccination opportunities to help our community get past the pandemic.”

With this in mind, GCPS is doing its part by placing an emphasis on wearing masks to start the school year more safely and will continue to encourage our GCPS community to get vaccinated. The district is partnering with the Gwinnett Health Department to host a weekly vaccination clinic at Discovery High School every Wednesday from 3-7 p.m. through the end of August.

While disappointed that the school year will start with masks, GCPS is very happy that its students will be starting the school year in person. Please know that district leaders will continue to monitor for new guidance from the CDC, health partners, and the state, using it to make updates throughout the 2021–22 school year.

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Education

2021 Gwinnett County Teachers of the Year, including Paul Duke HS teacher for HS TOTY

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Katie Blum

During the annual Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year program on December 10, 2020, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks announced Katie Blum of Sugar Hill Elementary School as the recipient of the school system’s highest teaching honor. Due to pandemic restrictions, the celebratory event for the six TOTY finalists, their guests, and a small audience took place at the school district’s Instructional Support Center. While the event—which recognized all 139 local school Teachers of the Year—was live streamed, a recording is available on the GCPS website and via the GCPS TV app.          

Prior to earning the school system’s top honor, Blum was first named the 2021 Gwinnett County Elementary School Teacher of the Year. She was selected as Gwinnett’s top teacher from a group of six finalists, which had been narrowed to three level winners. Kelley Donovan of Coleman Middle School is Gwinnett’s 2021 Middle School Teacher of the Year and Philip Peavy of Paul Duke STEM High School is Gwinnett’s 2021 High School Teacher of the Year.

The TOTY selection process began at the start of the school year when thousands of teachers from throughout the district nominated and selected 139 teachers to represent their local schools. A selection committee later narrowed the group to 25 semifinalists, and finally to the six finalists. In addition to the three level winners (Blum, Donovan, and Peavy), the other three finalists were Lena Alonso of Lilburn Elementary School, Julianne Purnell of Five Forks Middle School, and Danielle Swaby of South Gwinnett High School.

High School Teacher of the Year- Philip Peavy, Cyber Security and Game Design Teacher at Paul Duke STEM High School

Philip Peavy

As a Cybersecurity and Game Design teacher at Paul Duke STEM, Philip Peavy is in uncharted territory and he loves it. He explains, “The ‘Cable Unit’ in Introduction to Cybersecurity is unique to my classroom because it is not done anywhere else in the state or country. Cybersecurity is a new subject around the nation so I develop my entire curriculum. I make the content relevant by providing [students with] skills that are authentic to real-world experience.” As a lifelong learner himself, Peavy is committed to professional development, attending monthly GCPS Career and Technical Education professional development as well as industry conferences to stay on top of the latest industry trends, and to sharpen his teaching skills and methods. 

Source: GCPS

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Education

Paul Duke STEM HS, one of Six Gwinnett schools to receive Bosch STEM Grants

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Alcova Elementary School, Jackson Elementary School, Northbrook Middle School, Osborne Middle School, Mill Creek High School, and Paul Duke STEM High School have been awarded a combined total of nearly $50,000 by the Bosch Community Fund (BCF). The six Gwinnett County schools were selected as grant recipients based on their commitment to and excellence in STEM education. The schools will use the grants to fund STEM-related projects. This is the fifth year that schools in the Gwinnett district have been the recipient of BOSCH grant funds.

The BCF, the corporate foundation for Bosch in North America, was established in 2011 to provide community engagement and philanthropic support. It seeks to support STEM education with a focus on three goals:

  • Support the talent pipeline and address the science knowledge gap
  • Support environmental education with stewardship
  • Support conservation and restoration of natural resources

The grants provide educational resources for teachers and increase student access to hands-on STEM and environmental sustainability programming.

The BCF awards up to $3 million in grants annually to projects with a science, technology, and environmental focus.

SchoolSTEM Focus of GrantGrant Award
Paul Duke STEM HSSTEM Team’s Hoop Dreams—This grant will support the construction of a hoop house and associated costs including hoop house building supplies, aquaponics supplies, water filtration supplies, water reclamation supplies, a wind turbine, and a solar energy collection system. $8,000.00

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Education

Wesleyan School Senior Named National Merit Semifinalist

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Wesleyan School is pleased to announce that the National Merit Scholarship Corporation has named senior Alexander Thorne a National Merit Semifinalist. This honor is extended to only 1% of seniors (approximately 16,000 total) nationwide receive based on their PSAT scores. Thorne will now submit an essay in the hopes of becoming a finalist and earning scholarship money. The finalists will be announced later this school year.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 400 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

High school juniors entered the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2020 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of Semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

Wesleyan School is a Christian, independent K-12 college preparatory school located in
Peachtree Corners, Georgia. At the start of the 2021-2022 school year, Wesleyan enrolled 1,193
students from throughout the metropolitan Atlanta area. To learn more about the school, visit
wesleyanschool.org.

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