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Answers to Questions We Are Hearing (Updated 7/10/20):

Since the original FAQ was posted in late June, GCPS has received additional questions. Answers to some of those questions, along with the original FAQ, are found below. 

How will social distancing be implemented on the bus and in the classrooms? How will overcrowded classes be handled? Schools will take steps to maximize social distancing. Where feasible, rooms will be arranged with student desks facing the same direction and students seated at tables will sit on the same side. Hallways will be one-way where practicable. Schedules may be revised to accommodate better traffic flow within hallways and at school entrances. On school buses social distancing will not be an option. If the district were to social distance per CDC guidelines, each 72-passenger bus would only be able to transport 12 students at a time. GCPS does not have enough buses or drivers to accommodate social distancing to this degree. The district runs its buses on a four-tier schedule now, so there also would not be enough time to transport students to school with so few riders on each bus. Some students will be learning digitally rather than in person, so there may be fewer students using school bus transportation. Precautions will be taken to lessen the risk for bus riders and drivers. For example, buses will be cleaned after morning and afternoon routes. In addition, GCPS is requiring the use of masks and face coverings as a means to address concerns as social distancing will not always be possible.

Who will enforce the wearing of masks or social distancing? What kind of disciplinary actions will be taken and who will be held accountable if someone does not wear PPE or social distance?  Processes for enforcing the wearing of masks, and any potential consequences for not doing so, are currently being discussed. This information will be communicated prior to the start of school.

How will time off be handled if a teacher/staff member gets infected while at school with COVID?  Do they use time off or sick leave? What if they don't have enough sick leave hours to cover their time?  If a teacher/staff member experiences the on-set of COVID-related symptoms while at school, they are to inform their local school administration and leave the building. They will be instructed to contact their health care provider to determine next steps. The employee will not be able to report back to work until 10 days have passed since he or she developed symptoms AND he or she has been symptom-free for 72 hours. 

As for leave… The teacher/staff member may apply for 10 days of paid leave to use while they are away from work, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). If the employee qualifies for FFCRA, this 10 days of paid leave should cover the majority of required quarantine time for staff members. If it does not, a staff member would need to apply for a Leave of Absence and would be required to use his or her sick leave for any additional time away. Employees with questions may contact the GCPS Leave Office at Leave@gcpsk12.org.
 
How will subs be acquired if teachers start getting sick? Who will pay for the subs to fill a class? GCPS has approximately 3,300 active substitutes, and maintained a 93% fill-rate for the 2019-20 school year prior to March 13, despite the onset of a nationwide pandemic. The district continues to actively recruit substitutes to build this pool, and has hired more than 120 substitutes since June 1. Substitutes will continue to be paid for out of the district’s substitute budget. GCPS currently has 150 substitutes who have digital instruction experience (worked in long-term assignments during Digital Learning Days in the spring), and is in the process of providing training and systems access for additional substitute staff.

Please provide a clear example of what the digital platform will look like in the Fall of 2020. Will it be the same as Spring 2020? Will the students have to log in at a certain time or will they be streaming a teacher in a classroom interacting with students in person? The district and schools are incorporating the parent and student feedback from spring digital learning and applying those lessons to our beginning-of-the-year plans. Teachers will be providing both live (synchronous) and recorded (asynchronous) lessons and independent work. This means that students will be required to participate in digital instruction on a specific schedule with their teachers (synchronous learning), and also complete activities and assignments on their own time to meet assignment deadlines (asynchronous learning). We are encouraging teachers to conduct more live (synchronous) lessons, but with the understanding that occasionally students may not be able to participate at the specified time. Therefore, teachers should record the live sessions for students who need to view the lesson at a different time.  Platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams may be used for these sessions. Other assignments may include viewing other recorded videos as a part of independent work, which can be done any time during the day. We believe the use of a variety of instructional methods will be best for students. 

Will teachers be provided with separate time within school hours to meet the digital demands of the online students? Are teachers expected to do both digital and in-person instruction simultaneously? Teacher schedules will look different across schools based on student needs and what percentage chose digital vs. in-person instruction. The preference would be for teachers to teach either in-person or digitally. However, there may be classes that are taught by a single teacher. The goal here would be for the teacher to have time during the day designated for digital instruction that is separate from in-person instruction.

How will the special education programs work (speech, OT, PT, reading/math recovery, etc.)? These are generally administered in small groups/spaces and require close interaction. 
Many of our special education classrooms, as well as some specialty classrooms, will be provided PPE to help ensure the health and well-being of both school personnel and students. The PPE that will be available includes face masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns. A sanitization protocol will be used to clean any and all shared materials to further reduce the risks of the spread of the virus. In light of the small group setting for the listed groups, social distancing will be utilized to the maximum extent possible.

Will COVID-19 testing be conducted onsite at schools if someone (student/teacher/staff) tests positive? How will contact tracing happen? Will the whole class be quarantined at the same time?
GCPS will not conduct COVID-19 testing as that is a Health Department function. Our county school nurses will follow health department protocols to investigate when a positive case is reported. When cases of COVID-19, either for students or staff, are confirmed, the system will respond rapidly. The school will notify parents if their student needs to quarantine due to their student being in close contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. Those quarantined could include the entire classroom. The response for each case will be dictated by the nature of that case.

What are some of the steps GCPS has taken to keep the schools clean and safe? Has a vigorous cleaning regiment been adopted with the addition of cleaning supplies for the classrooms? GCPS is instituting additional cleaning and disinfecting of its facilities, on top of the cleaning practices and protocols that are a part of the school district’s daily, bi-weekly, and monthly custodial cleaning schedules. Classrooms also will be provided cleaning supplies, including cleaner/disinfectant, that can be used throughout the day.  

Will parents be expected to purchase wipes and cleaning supplies to supplement the teachers supply? Parents are not expected to purchase wipes and cleaning supplies; however, schools and teachers may ask parents who are interested/willing/and have access to these supplies to share with the class as they have in the past.

The school system announced five additional days of pre-planning and a new school start date of August 12. Are there any other changes to the calendar? Those are the only changes that have been made to the existing calendar at this time.

What are the instructional expectations for those teaching digital classes? Will teachers be available outside of regular school hours? What kind of training is being provided for those who are teaching digital classes? How much time will digital students be online? How much live teaching will take place with digital students? It is not likely that students would be online in live classes the entire school day. However, since teachers will be at their schools during school hours, it is safe to assume some digital instruction will occur during that time. Based on feedback from the spring, we are encouraging teachers to conduct more live (synchronous) lessons, but with the understanding that occasionally students may not be able to participate at the specified time. Therefore, teachers should record the live sessions for students who need to view the lesson at a different time. Platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams may be used for these sessions. Other assignments may include other recorded videos as independent work, which can be done any time during the day. We believe the use of a variety of instructional methods will be best for students. However, teachers will not be expected to continue instruction after school hours. Nor will teachers be expected to answer calls and emails after the end of the day.  

Will there be consistent expectations of what digital teaching looks like and how much time students will be engaged in learning? Will teachers receive additional training and support? Teachers did a great job transitioning to digital learning in the spring on short notice. Each week, teachers worked hard to improve their lessons to better engage students while at home. As the school year ended, teachers were eager for more professional learning on digital instruction. All summer staff development has been focused on improving teachers’ effectiveness in teaching digitally and in person. Teacher participation in these learning opportunities has been very strong and we believe students will see the impact daily in their lessons. Multiple resources and supports, such as sample lessons and technology training, also are available to all teachers, and schools will assure teachers are using these resources as they plan lessons.

For in-person learning, will some types of learning (circle time, conferencing, collaborative projects) have to be stopped or limited? Teachers will plan instructional activities that allow for as much small-group and social distancing as possible. Teachers will have to think a little differently about collaboration and how to work with students in the classroom. However, while the Curriculum and Instruction Department will share ideas, the district does not feel this should be prescribed by the district.

Are there any courses that will not be offered (chorus, PE, etc.) due to CDC guidelines? At this time, we do not know of any courses that GCPS will not offer.

Will I be informed if others (staff, students) in my building test positive? Will others find out if I or one of my students is positive? Health Department guidance requires that all close contacts be notified of a positive case. This means that those within a class or on a bus will be automatically notified. In doing the notification, the district will protect the identity of the individual who tested positive, following all FERPA and HIPAA regulations.

Will buildings be closed down for deep cleaning whenever there’s a positive case? The district will follow Health Department guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing the appropriate areas of the school in the event of a COVID-19 positive case.  

Will digital learners get access to physical textbooks? For many courses, students will be assigned a physical textbook. Local schools will issue these books to all students, including digital learners. For other courses where textbooks are issued in class sets, the district Curriculum and Instruction offices will assist teachers in developing lessons that utilize high-quality resources that can be accessed digitally. Additionally, there will be a limited number of classroom textbooks that can be checked out by students.

Will the digital learning curricula follow the in-person curricula? Students learning in-person and digitally will learn the AKS curriculum. Digital instruction will be consistent with in-person instruction.

Will there be opportunities for one-on-one attention (similar to a teacher walking by a desk to offer assistance) to digital learners? Yes, students who choose digital instruction will be provided opportunities to receive one-on-one attention.  (Teachers will expect those digital learning students to follow a specific schedule because after-hours support will be limited.

 

Answers to Questions We Are Hearing (Round 1): 
We understand that as parents/guardians, you have questions about Gwinnett County Public Schools’ return to school plans. This is an important decision for families. The following are some questions that parents have been asking. We hope this information is helpful to you in making the decision for your children. Other questions frequently asked will be added to the list through July 10. Responses are based on the current COVID-19 situation and the district’s plans for reopening August 5. (On 7/7, the Board of Education voted to delay the start of school until August 12.) 

Any changes regarding COVID-19 could affect these plans. As we continue to receive updated guidance from state leaders and health officials, we will communicate promptly any changes to GCPS’ plans. 

Why did the school system announce these plans now and set a deadline for a parental decision of July 10 when much could change before August? We realize this is a quick turnaround but we have only a few weeks before school starts to plan schedules to meet families’ needs. A July 10 deadline provides schools one week before new teachers report and just over two weeks before all teachers return. (On 7/8 it was announced that the deadline was extended to 11:59 p.m. on July 12.) 

If the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, could the district shift everyone to 100% digital learning? Yes, if conditions worsen and the Governor or health officials call for school closures, GCPS could move all students to a digital platform. 

Why do we have to make a commitment for the entire first semester? This decision will allow us to better plan for staffing and scheduling for students. That said, changes for individual students may be considered after the first nine weeks, if needed to better serve the students. 

Can I choose for my children to be on different options… one student face-to-face and the other child online? Yes, families should choose the option that works best for each individual student. 

If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 how will that be handled? The Department of Public Health is continuing to update its guidance regarding COVID-19. Anyone who is a positive case will be excluded from school based on health department guidelines. Those guidelines require the person to stay home for 10 days and be symptom-free for three consecutive days before they can return. Close contacts of the positive case also will be notified and instructed to self-isolate at home for 14 days. These individuals will not be allowed to return to in-person instruction until the 14-day window has passed. 

As a precaution, will GCPS require all students and staff to be tested for COVID-19 before school starts and they return to campus? The health department currently does not recommend this widespread testing before the start of the new school year. 

Will parents be notified if there is a positive case involving a student in their child’s class? On their child’s bus? Yes, every close contact of a positive case will be notified promptly. 

What happens if a student is attending school in-person and must stay home for several weeks because of exposure to COVID-19? The student would be allowed to complete his or her in-person lessons digitally without being counted absent. 

How will the district handle students who become sick at school? The school clinic will continue to serve students who feel ill at school. Each school will have an area set up (separate from the clinic) for students who have symptoms associated with COVID-19. Students will be socially distanced and monitored in that area while the parents are contacted to pick them up. It is essential that parents are aware that students who are ill should be kept home and that students who develop symptoms of illness while at school must be picked in a timely manner. 

Will students be able to maintain social distancing in class? Schools will take steps to maximize social distancing to minimize spread of the virus. Where feasible, rooms will be arranged with student desks facing the same direction and students seated at tables will sit on the same side. Hallways will be one-way where practicable. Schedules may be revised to accommodate better traffic flow within hallways and at school entrances. 

Will there be social distancing on school buses? No. If the district were to social distance per CDC guidelines, each 72-passenger bus would only be able to transport 12 students at a time. GCPS does not have enough buses or drivers to accommodate social distancing to this degree. The district runs its buses on a four-tier schedule now, so there also would not be enough time to transport students to school with so few riders on each bus. Some students will be learning digitally rather than in person, so there may be fewer students using school bus transportation. Precautions will be taken to lessen the risk for bus riders. For example, bus windows will remain open to increase ventilation, all riders will be encouraged to wear masks or face coverings, and buses will be cleaned after morning and afternoon routes. (On July 7, the Board of Education voted to require students and staff to wear a mask or face covering.) 

For a child with severe food allergies, will the Epipen or other rescuer medicine be allowed in the classroom if they are eating in class? Yes. 

Will the school system be able to offer extracurricular activities and sports? If so, will students who choose digital learning be able to participate? The school district’s ability to continue its sports programs will be determined in large part by Georgia High School Association rules and regulations, along with guidance from health officials. The local school will determine which extracurricular activities it will offer. If GCPS can offer sports and extracurricular activities, all students—both in-person and digital learners—will be able to participate. Participation will be on site at the school. 

What will digital learning look like for students? Will there be live instruction, I.e., watching an in-person class via video, or simply teachers posting lessons online for students to do? The district and schools incorporated the parent and student feedback from spring digital learning and applied those lessons to our beginning-of-the-year plans. We are planning for teachers to provide both live (synchronous) and recorded (asynchronous) lessons and independent work. What do you mean by synchronous and asynchronous lessons? This means that students will be required to participate in online meetings/lectures on specific days and at certain times with their teachers (synchronous learning), and also complete activities and assignments on their own time to meet assignment deadlines (asynchronous learning). 

Will the in-person lessons be changed/adjusted for the digital learning environment? Yes, teachers are being provided guidance and support for how to convert in-person lessons to digital lessons. The information we received said that students will be responsible for a full day of digital learning, following the school schedule. 

Does that mean students will be expected to be in front of a computer for six-plus hours a day? It is not likely that students would be online in live classes the entire school day. However, since teachers will be at their schools during school hours it is safe to assume some digital instruction will occur during that time. Based on feedback from the spring, we are encouraging teachers to conduct more live (synchronous) lessons, but with the understanding that occasionally students may not be able to participate at the specified time. Therefore, teachers should record the live sessions for students who need to view the lesson at a different time. Platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams may be used for these sessions. Other assignments may include other recorded videos are independent work, which can be done any time during the day. We believe the use of a variety of instructional methods will be best for students. However, teachers will not be expected to continue instruction after school hours. 

Is the school district doing additional staff development for teachers and assisting with the creation of digital lessons so that teachers are prepared to teach a full semester online? Teachers did a great job transitioning to digital learning in the spring on short notice. Each week, teachers worked hard to improve their lessons to better engage students while at home. As the school year ended, teachers were eager for more professional learning on digital instruction. All summer staff development has been focused on improving teachers’ effectiveness for teaching digitally and in-person. Teacher participation in these learning opportunities has been very strong and we believe students will see the impact daily in their lessons. Multiple resources and supports, such as sample lessons and technology training, also are available to all teachers, and schools will assure teachers are using these resources as they plan lessons. 

Will there be separate teachers for digital and in-person teaching? Principals will staff their schools based on how many students choose digital versus in-person instruction. The goal in scheduling will be to have a teacher who teaches a class entirely digitally or entirely inperson. There may be some teachers (particularly at the middle and high school levels) who teach both digital and in-person students. 

Will digital learning be taught by teachers in my child’s home school or will the teachers be from somewhere else? Your school’s teachers will conduct the digital lessons, but at this time, they cannot tell you which teachers will be leading in-person instruction and which will be leading digital classes. 

Will grading and expectations be the same for both digital and in-person instruction? Yes, they will be similar in terms of expectations for grading and due dates for assignments. 

Will the district take attendance for both digital and in-person instruction? Yes. We are currently developing a process for capturing attendance for digital learners. 

Registration for Gwinnett Online Campus is closed. But given the options we have been provided, will it open back up? Enrollment at Gwinnett Online Campus is closed and we do not anticipate re-opening it as the school is already over its enrollment capacity based on staffing and scheduling constraints. I am interested in the digital learning option, but I only have one computer for my three children to share. 

If students are expected to participate in lessons during the school day, how will my children be able to share a device? Each child will need his/her own device in order to fully participate in digital learning. If you need a device, contact your local school, which has a limited number of Chromebooks for check out to families based on need. Many community organizations are also offering devices to families in need. 
I am interested in the digital learning but do not have reliable internet service in my apartment. How is the school district addressing access issues? GCPS encourages families to take advantage of existing no- and low-cost Internet services provided by commercial carriers. The district maintains a list of these providers that is available on the GCPS website. If your family is unable to make use of one of these plans, contact your local school, which will have a limited number of hotspots available for check out. 

I did not receive the questionnaire link to make the choice for my student or I misplaced the email. Where can I find the link? In some cases, GCPS did not have adequate or accurate contact information for an enrolling parent. If you did not receive the Parent/Guardian Questionnaire link, you may access a Parent/Guardian Verification Form on the GCPS website. Once the school district has verified that the person filling out the form is the enrolling parent, the questionnaire link will be sent to that individual.
 

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