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Superintendent reviews school opening plan

By Barry H. Hendrix

The Thomasville City Board of Education formally approved July 21 a plan for opening Thomasville schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
Students will be welcomed to classrooms or for remote learning on Aug. 17.
The school board meeting was held in the Thomasville High School library.
School buses will be available beginning Aug. 17 to transport students, who have chosen to return to the classroom.
All students, grades three to 12, will receive a Chromebook laptop computer, and students, kindergarten through second grade, will receive a computer tablet.
Parents have recently participated in an online school survey, and Garth Moss, school superintendent, reported that approximately 40 percent of students, system-wide, are expected to take instruction remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More high school students are expected to return to the classroom.
The school system has not yet received final information on the remote or virtual program for pre-K students, he said.
Students in grades nine to 12 have two remote options: ACCESS (working at their own pace) or a remote option utilizing THS teachers and state-approved “Schoology” software. Students in kindergarten through eighth grade have only the “Schoology” remote option, Moss said. Teachers will be trained in Schoology next week.
Administrators will fine tune plans during a retreat on July 22 and 23. Five handheld thermal scanner have been purchased, and students will have their temperature checked at entrances to school buildings. Entrances to school buildings will be limited. Updated information on safety and wellness of students will be released soon, the superintendent said.
Moss described the school plan as “a living document,” which could change due to the severity of the coronavirus in Clarke County and changes in orders from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. The local status of the virus outbreak will dictate whether schools at some point will have to close and all students have to receive remote instruction from home, he said.
During the first two weeks of the 2020-2021 school year, students from grades kindergarten to 10th grade will take a STAR literacy assessment for reading and math. “This will allow our teachers to quickly know what kind of learning gaps we have from the previous year,” Moss said.
In addition, the Thomasville City Schools District will receive state COVID-19 funding: $168,719.00 (health and wellness) and $241,027.00 (remote learning devices).
In other action from the July 21 meeting, Moss reported that the school system is partnering with Coastal Alabama Community College, the City of Thomasville and AIDT for a new “Jump Start Alabama” virtual reality initiative. “This program, when in place, will be used as a recruiting tool for our career tech programs in our younger grades, especially eighth grade,” Moss said. It will also serve as “a training instrument for career tech skill development.” The goal is “to grow our own local workforce and keep what we consider our most valuable asset, our graduates, working in high demand jobs.”
• Welding and machine tool technology dual enrollment career tech classes will be taken this year on the Coastal Alabama Thomasville campus. Coastal officials have guaranteed that there will be places available for any THS students who are eligible, Moss said.
• Avery Ford, chief school financial officer reported that accounts payable for June 2020 totaled $132,140.88. Payroll for June totaled $746,470.24.
• The school board approved a second reading of board policy changes regarding safe schools (drugs, alcohol, firearms and weapons) and delegation of parental authority.
• A resolution was approved regarding a need for an emergency suspension of a board policy. An example is the suspension of the virtual school policy, which stated that only students in grades nine through 12 could receive instruction virtually, Moss said. “I will alert you of any policy which is suspended,” he told the board.
• The school board approved Amendment No. 2 of the Fiscal 2020 school budget. The amendment is to make minor changes to revenue and expenditures in both the General and the Special Revenue Funds.
• The board’s annual membership in the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) was approved ($3,568.03).
• Various admission passes were approved for individuals or organizations for athletic and school events during the 2020-2021 school year.
• The next meeting of the school board will be at 6 p.m. on Aug. 25 in the THS library. This meeting will include the first public hearing on the Fiscal 2021 budget. There will also be a 5 p.m. work session for the school board.