An Update on COVID-19 - 11/1/21

I am very pleased with how the COVID-19 situation continues to improve for our community and our school district. Case numbers in our school district have continued to decrease or remain low since we returned from the two-week asynchronous learning period in September. I want to thank you for doing everything you can to stay safe and to keep our numbers low. I said at the beginning of the school year that my priority this year would be to keep students in school in person as much as possible. Thanks to our safety protocols and your support, I can say we have had a much better start to the school year than last year.

We will continue to implement safety protocols, including monitoring COVID-19 data within our schools and our community. We also hope to begin weekly COVID-19 testing soon. We have partnered with the Georgia Department of Public Health (GaDPH) to conduct weekly testing for those students and staff who voluntarily submitted consent forms. We have everything in place and are waiting on the next steps from GaDPH to move forward with testing. I also want to thank all the middle and high school students who have been vaccinated for COVID-19. I was very impressed with the students who signed up to participate in our in-school clinics, and when we surveyed parents about COVID-19, we learned that about 500 students have been vaccinated on their own – and that’s just the ones we know about from those parents who completed the survey. Thank you to those parents who took the time to provide that feedback.

As you may know, our virtual learning option for students is VIP Academy. The VIP Academy began the school year with a projected enrollment of 500 students. Based on the current waiting list and recent parent feedback, BCSD will increase the VIP Academy’s authorized enrollment by 100 students. In the very near future, we will begin contacting families on the waiting list to see if their desire to transfer to the VIP Academy remains. An application period will open this month, but first, we’ll work from the waiting list already in place. That said, as a reminder, the VIP Academy is open to students in grades 4-12, and we will have an application period open later this month just in case we work all the way through the waiting list. Regardless of how many we remove from the waiting list, we will increase VIP Academy’s enrollment to 1,000 next school year. Applications for next school year also will be released later this month.

Another change we will be implementing relates to our COVID-19 leave procedures for employees. After November 23, 2021, the District will no longer offer COVID-19 Leave for any employees. (Previously, I said the District would continue to provide 10 days of COVID-19 Leave to any vaccinated employee.) This decision aligns with the procedures many other employers and school districts are implementing throughout the state. The federal government stopped providing COVID-19 Leave time to employees through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) about a year ago. Our District continued to provide the support to employees as an additional safety measure before vaccines were widely available. Based on our continued safety measures and the availability of vaccines, I believe it’s time for our District to move forward.

Finally, some parents have reached out to me because they believe we have been too restrictive. They have asked if, and when, we will stop requiring masks. I am not ready to make a change to our mask mandate at this time, but I am open to reviewing the decision based on future data. As elementary students become eligible for vaccines and more students are vaccinated, I hope to see our COVID-19 cases remain low.

I want to thank you again for all your support to make this the best school year it can be for our students. By implementing safety protocols, monitoring data, and partnering with the community to promote vaccinations, I think we can say things are going well. 

VIP continues, 

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