THOMASVLLE — Thomasville City Schools will open for the coming school year a couple of days later than originally planned.
School board members agreed Friday morning to have the first day of classes on August 6, rather than the previously scheduled August 3.
“We think they need a little more time to understand the processes and protocols of our reopening plans. We think it will give them more time to make sure there are more comfortable with that,” Superintendent Ben Wiggins said of the faculty and staff. “It gives us two days to see how things go. I think we have a good, solid plan.”
Students and teachers have not been in class since March 13. They finished the school year with distance learning after the novel coronavirus pandemic forced schools across the country to close.
Wiggins said getting children used to the routines of school is important, especially for the younger ones.
School board chairperson Kejar Butler spoke in favor of the August 6 start date, rather than delaying the start further.
“Our kids have missed a lot of school already,” she said. “If we need to do it because we need the extra time, then let’s do it. But if we’re ready on that Thursday, and we’re ready to go, then let’s give our kids those two days to get settled in. It will be an adjustment for them to get back into the routine of going back to school. We need those two days."
Board member Karen Kelso issued her concerns on the numbers of COVID-19 positive results possible at the start of school.
“We saw a resurgence after Memorial Day and we have not seen what is going to happen after July 4th,” she said. “I am concerned about the health of the students. We've got to open it at some point. I’m just concerned.”
Wiggins told board members that the school system’s plans for reopening and for conducting instruction have been done under the guidance of the state Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We need to make sure we are clearly communicating that we are going to go back safely and that we are willing to change as the situation changes,” board member Corey Sumner said. "That’s all we can do.”
Dr. Mary Williams Scruggs also questioned if the city schools should align their start with Thomas County Schools, since there are families who have children in each system.
“We have always tried to make sure the city and county are on the same page,” she said. “If we don't start together, it poses a problem.”
Dr. Hazel Jones also offered the concern that a late in the week start could lead to students not showing up until the following Monday for their first day.
“We tried this before and all the children did not participate,” she said.
Sumner said he understood the reason to start at the same as the county but said allowing the faculty and staff the two days of the first week and the weekend to gauge how the school start went was important.
He likened the August 6 start to a restaurant’s soft opening, to ensure that school will go smoothly the following Monday.
“It gives parents an opportunity, too, if they are a little nervous,” Wiggins said. “All the school reopening plans that every school district is doing is a living, working document that can and probably will change at any time, including the start date.
“But I think it will give parents a peace of mind if they were a little nervous and they wanted to see how the first couple of days went. You may get some buy-in and confidence from parents and students by doing that.”
Wiggins said state education and public health officials are looking at the COVID-19 numbers constantly and could recommend shutting down schools again at any point.
“That’s our new life,” he said. “We’re going to go to school as long as it's safe up until the Department of Public Health communicates to us that based on the spread in our community that they don’t think we should be open. That’s the new school, and that is going to be our life for the foreseeable future.”
Wiggins said that if school has to stop, that will be determined by medical experts, not by the local system.
“I think everyone is concerned about the safety of our kids and our staff,” he said. “That’s everybody’s top priority.”