Fulton County Schools has moved the start of the 2020-2021 school year back one week to Aug. 17 to give more time for preparation and because state officials moved a runoff election to Aug. 11.

“One-third of our schools will serve as polling places for the Aug. 11 election, and since elections bring large numbers of voters and other members of the public into our buildings, this creates an additional safety concern during the COVID-19 pandemic,” FCS said after a June 29 Board of Education meeting.

When Georgia elections officials moved the statewide primary elections to June 9, that required changing the primary runoff election date to Aug. 11.

Staff at the schools will get additional time to disinfect areas used for polling places and give teachers more days of professional development in preparation for students’ arrival.

Starting a week later will not change any other calendar dates such as holidays, winter or spring breaks, or the last day of school.

Pandemic precautions

The school board approved a strategy that has options for attending school in person or through virtual learning. Contingency plans were created in case an increase in COVID-19 cases causes an interruption to face-to-face learning. Registration for the school year began June 30, and families have until July 17 to decide what learning option their children require.

Even before they get to school, students who ride a bus will see a difference. Seats will be assigned and students will be required to wear a face mask on the bus.

Once at school, they’ll see their teachers and all other Fulton County Schools employees wearing masks. Students will be strongly urged to do the same in school.

FCS plans more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces. Students will be encouraged to wash their hands more often. Hand sanitizers and physical barriers at front reception desks and other high-volume areas are another set of safety measures. In case anyone shows signs of an illness, they’ll be sent to isolation rooms until they can be sent home.

Inside the school, students can expect to see desks spaced out in classrooms. They will have their movement through the school buildings controlled. Where they eat meals and the size and place for assemblies will be structured.

“The goal is to reduce the possible spread of illness through more physical separation, yet still give students and teachers the personal interaction they need,” FCS said.

For more information on health safety steps being taken by FCS, view this flyer.

Remote or virtual learning opportunities are available, particularly for students who have underlying health conditions, social or emotional conditions, or other special or extenuating circumstances that makes returning to face-to-face classes unsafe with the coronavirus. FCS said the programs are open to other interested families.

For students in grades 1-8, an individual remote learning opportunity was created. A full-time virtual opportunity was set up for students in grades 9-12. These options require a semester-long commitment and do not include extracurricular activities at other schools. Virtual clubs will be available.

For more information, see the FCS website.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.