Photos by Charles Shiver
Cayson Smith prepares for the first day of the new school year at Open House, in Mrs. Baxter’s fifth grade class at Cook Elementary School.
Supt.: Good start for school year despite COVID
By Charles Shiver
Cook County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tim Dixon would like to thank the community for all their help in making the first day of school start as safely and orderly as possible on Monday morning, Aug. 10, 2020.
“We had a great first day for Cook County Schools,” Dr. Dixon said.
Dr. Dixon expressed appreciation to parents who brought their children to school that morning and freed up space on school buses to help with compliance with social distancing guidelines. He encouraged the parents to continue to bring their children to school and take them home this way if at all possible for the next few weeks.
While masks are not required, Dr. Dixon also thanked parents for making sure so many children wore masks to school.
He said it will take this community-wide effort to help make the schools and children safe, as the hard work continues to contain and limit the spread of COVID-19 while offering a quality education for all students.
During the Cook County Board of Education work session on Monday, Aug. 10, Dr. Dixon and Student Services Director Henry Acree further discussed the school reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Originally presented at the July meeting, the plan now contains more specific guidelines for the schools on reopening safely, ranging from temperature checks of students and staff before they enter the buildings to enforcement of the 6-foot social distancing rule between students in the classrooms. The local rules follow recommendations of Georgia Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Georgia Department of Education, and are in line with the reopening plans of other schools in the RESA district, Dr. Dixon said.
The community has started the new school year with the “A.1, Traditional Learning Model” (in-school learning), or “A.2, Online Learning from Home.” This level is used when there is low or no community spread of COVID-19. How well the community responds will help determine whether or not the school system has to go to the second level - the “Hybrid Learning Model,” when there is minimal to moderate community spread - or even the third level - “Remote Learning Model,” when there is substantial spread. So far, all involved with the reopening, including the parents, students, and school employees, have done exceptionally well, Dr. Dixon said. “We still have to stay tight and not relax (the restrictions). We will have to work together as a team.”
He said so far, 2,116 children are attending school in the school buildings, while about 1,000 students are participating in Online Learning from Home.
This has allowed the children to space out in the classrooms, as well as limited the number of kids on buses. It was noted that one of the biggest school bus loads on Monday was about 15 kids.
During the Board of Education’s regular session, the BOE voted unanimously to approve the school reopening plan and gave school officials the authority to edit the plan as needed, in light of changing health guidelines and any issues that may arise in the schools.
Last week, Dr. Dixon confirmed that Cook High School football practice had been suspended for two weeks. The 14-day suspension was in compliance with CDC guidelines.
An assistant football coach tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, Aug. 3. The coach reportedly was experiencing symptoms over the prior weekend. Public Health officials were conducting contact traces to try and see who the coach might have been in contact with and have been exposed for a minimum of 15 minutes within 6 feet of him.
The players were notified about the 14-day suspension when practice ended Aug. 3.
CDC guidelines do not require the students to be tested, unless they exhibit symptoms.
However, a parent has posted on Facebook that a player has tested positive. Public Health officials will have to conduct contact traces to determine all who came into contact with and have been exposed for a minimum of 15 minutes within 6 feet of him.
Practice was temporarily stopped once earlier in the summer when two students, reportedly asymptomatic, tested positive for COVID-19. However, practice resumed until the most recent cases surfaced.
Last Thursday, Aug. 6, the Georgia High School Association canceled preseason football scrimmage games, but left alone the regular-season schedule, which remains set to begin the week of Sept. 4.
Cook had a scrimmage game scheduled vs. Lanier on Aug. 28 in Adel. The Hornets are still scheduled to play Ware County in Waycross on Sept. 4.
The GHSA also moved competitive cheerleading to winter and one-act play tentatively to spring.
The GHSA’s new tentative start date for competitive cheerleading competitions is now Nov. 21, with finals Feb. 26-27 instead of late November. Cheer teams may continue to practice.
Specific dates for one-act play were not announced.
The fall sports of cross country and fast-pitch softball remain on schedule, and their first competitions were allowed last week.
In response to a question from Board Member Fairy Gear, Dr. Dixon said if a child gets on a bus and is later found to be running a fever before entering school, the child, and anyone he or she comes within 6 feet of for a minimum of 15 minutes on the bus, will have to stay at home for 14 days before being considered for re-entry into the schools.
Dr. Dixon urged parents, “Please don’t put your child with a fever on a bus.”
He added that any employee who tests positive for COVID or is symptomatic will have to stay home for 14 days.
“If there is any doubt at all, stay home,” Dr. Dixon said. “We will work with you.”