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Newton schools announce plan for 'gradual' return to in-person learning
Superintendent says all based on COVID-19 rates
The Newton County Theme School welcomes students back to school in a previous year.

Newton County schools will allow students to begin a "staggered, gradual return" to buildings with all possibly back in by mid-October if the COVID-19 "numbers allow," the superintendent announced today.

The system is preparing for the eventual return of students for in-person instruction but it will be based on such factors as grade level, student status and if they originally chose an in-person learning model, a news release stated. 

Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey and staff announced the development of a School System Re-Entry Plan that delineates the timetable students could return to school, the release stated.

On Sept. 8, all self-contained special education students will report to in-person instruction at their school buildings while all other students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 will begin virtual instruction, the release stated.

“It is important to provide face-to-face instruction for our self-contained students starting on day one,” Fuhrey said. “As a result, they will be the first students to return to the buildings for in-person instruction. 

"From there, we will implement our re-entry plan and, if the situation allows, begin a staggered, gradual return of students to in-person learning," she said. 

Fuhrey said the re-entry to buildings will be for those who originally opted for the in-person learning model; those who opted for the secondary self-paced virtual model will continue that learning format through the first semester. 

"In addition, those parents who feel it is in their child’s best interest to remain in virtual learning may do so — we are not going to require them to return to in-person if they do not feel comfortable sending their child to school at this time.”

Fuhrey and district staff will review data regarding COVID-19 every Friday, using the 14-day case rate, rate of positivity, the seven-day moving average, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits related to COVID-19, to make a determination about if and when it is safe to return groups of students to school, the release stated.

“Once we review the data, if the numbers allow, we will begin the phase-in of students,” Fuhrey said. 

“We will notify parents via email beginning Sept. 11 if the numbers are trending in the right direction and parents of students in the first phase -- which includes pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, eighth grade, and 12th grade -- will be asked to notify us if they want their student to return to in-person instruction. 

"They must complete the questionnaire by 5 p.m. that Monday in order for their student to be included in the first wave of students reporting back on Sept. 21. If the numbers continue to improve, we will follow the same process every Friday, inviting increased numbers of students to return.”

Grade levels of each phase of re-entry are as follows:

Phase 1: Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 8th Grade, and 12th Grade

Phase 2: 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 6th Grade and 9th Grade

Phase 3: 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 7th Grade, 11th Grade

Phase 4: 10th Grade

If the data allow, students could be back in school by Oct. 13; however, should numbers indicate an increased rate of transmission of COVID-19 in the community, the school system may delay one or more phases of re-entry, the release stated. 

Those students already back for in-person instruction would continue to report to school; others would remain in virtual learning until conditions improve. In that event, the district would update the dates for re-entry and continue to review data on Fridays.

“Our model allows for week-to-week consideration of community transmission of COVID-19,” Fuhrey said. “Because the turnaround time for our Friday announcements to Monday deadline to respond to the survey is so short, it is imperative that parents have current email addresses in their student’s Infinite Campus profile. 

"As such, we have opened up the Parent Portal so parents may update their contact information on their child’s profile. We implore parents to create a Parent Portal account and verify their email and phone numbers are correct as soon as possible.”

Parents may create an account by following the link:

“Ultimately, our goal is to have all students return to in-person instruction and stay in face-to-face instruction,” said Fuhrey. “We know that is the best learning environment for children of all ages.

"In order to do this, we have verified with our medical partners that the wearing of masks is of utmost importance. As such, members of the board of education, in partnership with school system administration determined that students and staff will be mandated to wear masks while in our schools and on our school buses unless there is a documented, clinical concern preventing them from doing so. 

"Students who refuse to wear a mask will not be permitted to ride the school bus or attend classes in person; instead, they will remain in the virtual environment.”

The plan can be downloaded at this link: