Fayette schools gear up for virtual teaching and learning

Fayette County School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Barrow gives update on school operations changes because of Covid-19. Photo from system's YouTube video.
Fayette County School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Barrow gives update on school operations changes because of Covid-19. Photo from system's YouTube video.

Fayette County Public School Superintendent Jody Barrow on March 18 posted a Facebook update on the COVID-19 virus and work of the school system’s task force. The post from Barrow and task force members included information for employees and families.

Barrow noted that schools will be closed through March 31, at which time the school closures will be re-evaluated. He said the most accurate information on issues relating to the school system will be posted on the school system website at www.fcboe.org.

The task force includes Lead Nurse Debbie King, CFO Tom Gray, Assistant Superintendent for Operations Mike Sanders, Assistant Superintendent for Student Achievement Julie Turner, Chief Technology Officer Jim Farmer, Human Resources Director Erin Roberson, Communications Director Melinda Berry-Dreisbach and Sam Sweat with Special Projects.

“This event with the coronavirus-19 is really unprecedented in any set of circumstances, because we are facing this, not only as a system, but as state, as a nation and literally worldwide,” Barrow said. “And it’s going to take us a little bit of time to get our head wrapped around the work and what this new normal is going to look like. So I want to share with you that we’re going to make decisions as information becomes available, and we’re going to be steady in the boat as we’re working through these issues.”

The Facebook post continued, with remarks from task force members.

King began her remarks defining COVID-19, its transmission route, symptoms, incubation parameters and populations at-risk for the virus. King noted the precautions needed to prevent the spread of the virus, including frequent handwashing, avoiding touching the face, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding contact with those who are sick and cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces.

Those believing they need medical consultation were prompted to first contact their healthcare provider for assistance and instructions. King said she is in daily contact with health agencies, adding that school nurses are working from home and are keeping in touch with families and staff about their concerns.

Gray in his comments noted the schools participating in the drive-thru nutrition distribution program — Spring Hill Elementary and North Fayette Elementary. Plans include expanding the program at Fayette County High School. Gray said the distribution sites could expand as needed.

The no-cost breakfast and lunch meals are available to children 18 and under, Gray said, adding that the child must be present when the meals are picked-up. The program will continue as long as the need is present, Gray added.

Gray said his department is working to ensure that employees continue to be paid on time. Hourly employees should work with their administrator or supervisor for work opportunities.

Sanders in his remarks said the main focus from facilities operations will be primarily in disinfecting schools. That work has begun, he said, adding that school buses are also being disinfected.

Sanders noted the ongoing assistance from law enforcement agencies throughout the county.

Next up, Turner said the Milestones tests have been cancelled as have other assessments.

“Our focus has never been just the tests. Our focus has always been on delivering high-quality teaching and learning to our students,” Turner said.

Turner thanked digital learning services for developing the virtual learning website for teachers.

Farmer noted that digital learning services has been working to develop digital learning days, which saw a change with the school closures, adding that teachers are doing a good job adjusting to it.

Farmer said information will soon be sent out pertaining to a Chromebook support plan for students and families having Chromebook issues.

Barrow said virus task force has been meeting for the past couple of weeks.

“We always want to have a good plan moving forward,” Barrow said, adding that, “All the decisions we’ve been making have not been done unilaterally.  We’ve been gathering information from the Ga. Dept. of Public Health, CDC, healthcare professionals (and others) in order to see how our district will be impacted as we continue to move forward.”

Barrow commended the school system’s employees “pulling together and doing what they need to do in their specific areas to make sure our school system operates effectively as we’re looking at the continuance of operations as we forward.”

Comments by Barrow and the task force can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxPj80HHADk&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3MuCk2xPP2FZZzLAH0U-HNLXime0Rh8KP_KcH_U5oSqWxh1fN27XX0q6o