Great Return to School - 9/21/20

I want to share a huge thank you to all of those who helped make the last two weeks a great return to school for the Bibb County School District. Thank you parents, thank you community, thank you teachers, thank you students. Thank you everyone! 

When I look at the different operations and activities that had to come together, we would not have been able to do it without parents picking up devices and hot spots, without teachers preparing lessons and making them user-friendly, without the School Nutrition Department preparing the meals, without the Transportation Department transporting the meals, without the Custodial staff and Maintenance crew maintaining the grounds and facilities to keep the buildings sanitized, or without the support staff inside buildings answering phones and Help Desk calls. It has just been an amazing effort to make the first two weeks come together. It’s not hard for me to say, but in my 20+ years in education, this was probably one of the better school openings I have had. That’s surprising when you think about doing it in the middle of a pandemic. Congratulations to all!

As I reflect on where we are now, we’re starting to look at the idea of what comes next. Some parents have asked me, “Why are our students not in school when surrounding counties are?” I continue to share the information that I receive from the North Central Health District – one of the resources I follow in order to stay informed. When I look at the surrounding counties of Baldwin, Crawford, Hancock, Houston, Jasper, Jones, Monroe, Peach, Putnam, Twiggs, Washington and Wilkinson, it becomes clear that Bibb County is one of the counties most severely hit by COVID-19. Based on data from last week from the North Central Health District, those 13 counties have experienced almost 16,000 cases of COVID-19. What may not be well known is that almost 6,000 of those … 5,960 in fact, were all in Bibb. The closest county to us had 3,100. Another county had 2,000. But we are by far more affected. The same is true of the number of deaths that have occurred. In those same 13 counties 465 total deaths, 158 of them were in Bibb County. No other county is in triple digits. In fact, the next highest number is 74. We are being affected more than others. So, when people ask me why we aren’t like others, the answer is because the numbers indicate that we have just been more severely hit.

What is it going to take for us to move forward? It’s going to take us continuing to work together and I am asking for your help in that. I’m asking that we continue to be supportive and patient, and let each day just get better and better. Our schools and parents have done a great job implementing the Remind software. It allows us now to have one place to update information for communications and phone numbers. Thank you so much for helping with that. 

We’re also working to do a better job of identifying who needs meals. Parents, please remember to go in and to follow the procedures we have outlined so your child can get meals. We recognize that has been difficult the first two weeks, and we are reviewing that process and we will improve it in the next week. For now, just know it will probably mean fewer days that we will be delivering meals, meaning that you will get multiple meals when you pick up – probably twice a week. We’ll share more details soon. 

The other thing that has worked has been the technology. Because of you, the community, our infrastructure has been sound and we have been able to get instruction out from our buildings. Thank you, teachers and staff, for working from the buildings and utilizing our ESPLOST-funded technology – and for doing so as safely as possible. Where we have run into difficulty has been in homes where those systems are not as robust in pulling the information and data in. We’re going to continue looking at what we’re doing to help support students and families. Parents, one way you can help us – we are not going to require students to have their cameras on for the full amount of time, so you won’t be using as much data. It also will put less stress on your end of the system so we can be more successful and have fewer students who are kicked out or lose the connection. 

I also want to give you another piece of news: Some of our schools are going to implement a modified version of Class Dojo as part of PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). One of the issues we had with Class Dojo previously was that it competed with our main way for communicating with parents. We are now using Remind for communication and we do not want the implementation of Class Dojo to become a problem for us in that area, in this regard. We are looking at is using Class Dojo for in-class rewards and recognitions of students. Under this implementation, parents won’t be getting notifications about how well a child did or when they got a point in Class Dojo. Please know that we are implementing Class Dojo – or other PBIS platforms at some schools – so that students will still be able to receive recognition and we will be able to move forward and get better. 

We also are going to have some of our students return to in-class instruction in the next few weeks. Our Program for Exceptional Children team conducted IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings with about 2,000 parents prior to the start of the school year as part of IDEA. Through careful analysis of these meetings, it became evident that a phased-in approach would be needed for the subset of students with significant needs in Access classes. These are some students who we have identified as just not being able to receive the quality of instruction that we think is necessary virtually. 

Please know that these parents have been contacted and that we are working as quickly as we can to get to a sense of normalcy for everyone. To help us do that, please continue to practice wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands. 

I thank you for what you’ve done, I thank you for what you are doing, and I’m very thankful that you have allowed us to continue to educate your children virtually. Thanks everybody and have a great day. 

-VIP Continues

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