THOMASVILLE — Thomasville City Schools and Thomas County Schools’ start date for the 2020-21 school year has been pushed back into September.

In an open letter to city schools’ students’ parents, Superintendent Ben Wiggins outlined the reasons for the delay. The city school board had pushed back the original August 3 start date to August 6. Wiggins announced Friday morning that in-person school will begin September 8.

“We understand the importance of opening our schools for face to face instruction for the students and families that choose the traditional classroom option,” he wrote. "We have been in discussions with the Department of Public Health on a regular basis and our cases in Thomas County are high and continue to grow.”

Thomas County Schools had pushed their start date back from August 3 to August 10. County schools also will start back on September 8.

In a statement to its students’ parents the county school system said the postponement will allow it to bolster its remote learning plans and help with getting computers in the hands of students. 

Thomas County Schools will make remote classroom and virtual learning available for those families who wish to keep their children at home.

“The health and wellbeing of all of our students, staff, and families are vitally important to us,” the county system statement read. "We are all eager to get back to traditional learning in our schools because that is where the majority of our students and staff thrive.”

Wiggins noted in his missive that Archbold said COVID-19 positive numbers are rising. Gov. Brian Kemp’s office also asked for feedback from local superintendents about pushing the school start date back to September 8. 

A recommendation was made to the state Board of Education but it chose to leave school start dates up to local boards.

“We feel at this time the best decision for the students, faculty, staff and families associated with Thomasville City Schools is to follow the recommendation of Governor Kemp's office as well as the guidance from the Department of Public Health. The first day for students will be September 8 and we will begin instruction for all TCS students,” Wiggins wrote in his letter. “Please know we are very confident in our reopening plan which has been vetted by the Department of Public Health. We feel confident the citizens of Thomasville will take the current spread of COVID-19 very seriously and will join us in this most important fight for the education of our children.”

Wiggins also said the number of students who have chosen the virtual option has decreased class sizes “significantly,” and that will enable the city schools to start safely on September 8.

“We understand this decision will cause a significant burden for many of our families,” he wrote. “We also understand the importance for our students to receive face to face instruction.”

In-person open houses were going to be limited to those going into pre-kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade, along with students who were new to the system. All other open houses were going to be conducted virtually.

The new start date, Wiggins said, gives city schools a chance to hold open houses, in reduced numbers, for elementary school students. The city schools are working on plans for open houses. 

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