The following message is from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower:
Today is the fifth day of school – and, this year, that is an amazing milestone.
As I said when we began the week, we would not have been able to reopen schools in person, simultaneously launch a new Digital Learning program and start the school year on time without your patience, grace, flexibility and support.
Every one of our 5,000 employees has worked harder this week than ever before to provide an essential service: public education for our community’s children. I hope our entire community will join me in thanking them: for without our teachers, school nurses, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, technology staff, front office teams, school counselors, maintenance crews, administrators, and many, many more, there would be no school -- in-person or online.
We also would not have a school without our students and our parents. Our parents wanted a choice for their children, and we delivered – it is not perfect, and we all know that, but perfection is not possible in a pandemic. We’re building the Digital Learning plane while it’s already up in the air, while at the same time, we’re following our Reopening of School Plan protocols and sending kids and teachers home to quarantine when necessary. Neither is perfect, which is why we keep waking up, going to work every morning with the goal of doing better and staying late until we’ve done all we could in one day. For our K-5 Digital Learners, here (http://www.cherokeek12.net/Content/dl8102020) is guidance we’ve issued to our elementary teachers for next week to give you an idea of the work happening behind the scenes.
We have students and staff reporting presumptive, pending and positive COVID-19 tests every day, and this will continue as we operate schools during a pandemic. We are working with the Department of Public Health to confirm, contact trace, quarantine and then notify the school community. We’re taking extra steps for transparency, including not only updating weekly current case totals, but also posting school notification letters and details about each case, while still respecting privacy; you can find this webpage at https://bit.ly/ccsdc19casereport.
We know we’re under a microscope, as national media follows the reopening of schools across the country. But know that our decisions are not based on what people in New York or Kansas think, nor are we concerned about “optics” or “image” – we’re focused on what’s doing best for our community.
To that point, photos are snapshots of a moment in time, and while they don’t always tell the whole story, it’s important to investigate and address possible underlying issues. The senior group photos taken outside before school on several of our campuses raised concerns that those students might not be aware of the importance of masks. Upon investigation, we learned many wear masks routinely, but we must continue to remind all students of the importance of masks when you cannot social distance.
We will continue to closely monitor the state of public health in our community and our schools, the number of quarantines, and the sustainability of staffing in determining the future of in-person schools. Should we have to close all schools, which we have no plans to do at this time, we will shift to online learning for all students not already enrolled in Digital Learning. If you did not enroll your children in Digital Learning and now want to do so, we unfortunately cannot accommodate the majority of these requests due to staffing constraints in CCSD and in Georgia Virtual School.
How long can we keep schools open? The answer will depend on all of us as a community. We need to social distance whenever we can, and always wear masks when we cannot. As we said before reopening, social distancing is not possible in all situations at our schools – this is why we require our staff to wear masks or face shields when they cannot distance, and this is why we’re providing masks to students and strongly recommending they wear them. This is a critical component to keeping schools open.
Parents need to continue to keep their children home when they’re sick. We’re so appreciative of the parents who are doing the right thing every day by monitoring their children for symptoms (here is a checklist to help you: https://bit.ly/CDCchecks), seeking medical assistance and testing when children show symptoms, and notifying their school of the situation. We care about every child, every employee and all of their families – none of us want anyone to become sick, and we are greatly concerned for those who do become sick.
Thank you to the many parents who have taken the time to send us messages of thanks for opening our schools, sharing the stories of what this has meant to their children and how they appreciate the courage shown by our teachers, support staff and School Board this week. And thank you to everyone who has publicly thanked our teachers and staff and sent them notes and treats and gift cards, for they deserve all the praise and more.
We are, and always have been, a CCSD family. We are #CCSDfam and #CCSDunited. We will get through this together.