ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The Dougherty County School System will push back its January return to school by a week, according to the school district.
Based on a recommendation from Superintendent Kenneth Dyer, students will return on Jan. 11. Students were originally slated to come back on Jan. 5. School district employees will start the year working remotely on Jan. 4 and will return in-person on Jan. 7.
“Our student’s first day of school was supposed to be January 5th. We are delaying that to January 11th. And the reason is that will provide us more time to monitor any possible symptoms that result from the holidays,” said Superintendent Kenneth Dyer.
Dyer said from the start, the school system’s decisions have been conditions-based.
“As conditions have continued to trend in the wrong direction, I feel it’s appropriate to amend the instructional calendar to allow for more time between the holiday period and the restart of school in January,” the superintendent said.
The Dougherty county school system is just one of the districts in our area expanding their Christmas breaks.
Dr. Charles Ruis, director for the southwest health district, says this method not only benefits students, but also the entire community.
“I think that by going to virutal learning or by taking extended holidays, that could help cut down on the spread,” said Dr. Ruis.
The school system plans to reopen 6 days later than previously scheduled, but only if cases don’t surge.
“If the cases continue to increase at the current rate, there is a possibility that we will delay the return to in person learning longer than January 11th,” said Dyer.
“Typically, the community has experienced upticks immediately after holidays,” the district said in a release. “These changes are designed to provide additional time to identify possible symptoms by those returning to work and in-person instruction. As always, parents will have the option to keep their students in a virtual learning environment if they wish.”
And while the COVID-19 vaccine is bringing hope that many aspects of life could return to normal, Dr. Ruis says those under 16 years old are not included in the group eligible for the vaccine right now.
“it is true- children under 16 will not be able to get the vaccine right away. So it will continue to be very important to practice social distancing, and to have children who are sick to be evaluated by a provider to determine whether this might or might not be COVID. But, of course, if we can obtain herd immunity, the children, in essence, will be protected at that time,” said Dr. Ruis.
In the meantime, Superintendent Dyer is asking students and staff to continue taking precautions, even during Christmas.
“Just for this one season. So that we can get beyond this Christmas and New year season and be able to get back to school safely,” said Dr. Ruis.
Dyer said if conditions worsen, the district could switch to a virtual-only model.
“If plans change, we will provide as much notice as possible,” he said. “Because we understand that decisions about our instructional models impact families throughout Dougherty County.”