In-Person and Distance/Digital Learning for the 2020-21 School Year
Oconee County Schools re-opened Aug. 5, 2020. Help Keep Oconee Open by masking up, staying home when sick, keeping physical distance, and sanitizing hands regularly.
Weekly COVID-19 Status Report
COVID-19 Status Report as of October 23, 2020 at 4 p.m. (55 Days of School)
Total Number of In-Person Students and Staff: 8,454
Total Number of Active COVID-19 Cases: 5
Percentage of In-Person Students and Staff: 0.06%
Total Number of Active Quarantines Due to Close Contact: 7
Percentage of In-Person Students and Staff: 0.08%
Digital/Distance Learning Information
Click here for information about K-5 distance learning.
Click here for information about 6-12 distance learning. NEW! OCS teacher-led for spring semester core courses.
Oconee County Schools has continuously monitored federal, state, and local guidance regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the specific information that has been reviewed includes the Georgia Department of Education and Georgia Department of Public Health guidance, World Health Organization guidance, and CDC guidance. In addition to this guidance, the School Reopening Task Force met to discuss a variety of topics regarding school reopening. The task force was divided into four committees: Calendar Committee, Learning Continuity Committee, Human Resources Committee, and Infectious Disease Prevention Committee. These committees were comprised of district and school leaders with teacher input.
In addition, parent and employee feedback was crucial in planning for the August 5, 2020 reopening. There were two surveys disseminated. The first was feedback on distance/digital learning and the results are available here. The second was a survey on parents' non-binding plans regarding in-person or distance/digital learning for Fall 2020. The results of that survey are available here.
We appreciate all the stakeholder feedback that has been provided through a number of additional channels as well.
For the latest on return-to-school best practices, please click here.
Two instructional models are available for students: in-person and distance/digital learning. Families do not have to choose the same instructional model for all of their children if they have multiple children enrolled in Oconee County Schools.
Option 1: In-Person Learning Model
Parents selecting Option 1 are choosing for their child to begin the school year with a return to the Traditional Learning Model of in-person instruction just as it was provided prior to the COVID pandemic with infection mitigation measures in place.
Traditional Learning Model:
This is a traditional school experience with students beginning school in person and attending five days a week on a regular Monday through Friday schedule. However, if there is a significant increase in community spread of COVID-19, a Hybrid Learning Model or systemwide Distance/Digital Learning Model may be utilized. The degree of increased community spread would determine which of these models would need to be implemented.
Hybrid Learning Model:
In the event of increased community spread of COVID-19, OCS may transition to a hybrid learning model. Students would be divided into two groups (Hybrid 1 and Hybrid 2) and will attend school on a “Hybrid 1” schedule or a “Hybrid 2” schedule. The school system is exploring ways to ensure that students within the same family would be on the same schedule. The students will receive in-person instruction two days per week. On the other three days, students will participate in digital/distance learning experiences. The hybrid model allows for students to receive in-person instruction while significantly reducing the number of students in classrooms and allowing for more social distancing.
Full-Time Distance/Digital Learning Model:
In the event of increased community spread of COVID-19, schools may be closed to students and the OCS Distance/Digital Learning Plan would be implemented. This plan was revised to incorporate lessons learned from our experience in the spring of 2020 and feedback from the parent, student, and staff survey on distance/digital learning. All K-12 students will have a device to take home during a school closure. External WiFi access points will be available in all school parking lots and buses parked around the county.
Option 2: Distance/Digital Learning Model
Parents selecting Option 2 are choosing for their child to learn remotely from home. It is important that students and parents understand that distance/digital learning for the 2020-21 school year will not be structured like distance learning from this past spring. Expectations in terms of attendance, grading, and accountability will be the same for those students participating in digital/distance learning and in-person learning. Parent involvement is key to successful digital/distance learning as students will need parental assistance during the digital learning school day. Please carefully read the information below as a significant commitment will be needed by both students and parents in order to facilitate successful digital/distance learning.
For students who choose to begin the semester with a Distance/Digital Learning model, middle/high school students must commit to the entire Fall semester. Elementary students must commit to 9 weeks at a time. Students enrolled in full-time distance learning can participate in extracurricular activities at their school.
- Reliable internet access is required in order to participate in digital learning and a district-issued device is available for each student.
- Every student, regardless of grade level, will be expected to attend and adhere to the school board-approved academic calendar. Attendance will be recorded and assignments will be graded.
- Core academic courses (social studies, science, math, and language arts/reading) will be available for all grade levels.
- The school district will remain responsible for the education of students eligible for special education services with an individualized education program (IEP) that opt for digital/distance learning. Because digital/distance learning may affect how special education and related services are provided, the student’s IEP team will work to ensure that the student receives services to the most appropriate extent possible.
- Students will be taught according to the Georgia Standards of Excellence and grades will be based on academic performance.
- Distance/digital learning will look different from the COVID-19 school closure and students can expect to be engaged for a full school day. The expectations and rigor will mirror in-person instruction, and distance/digital students will have a full school day Monday-Friday.
- Students will be responsible for adhering to the procedures and guidelines located in the OCS Student Device Handbook and the Technology Usage Agreement.
- Oconee County Schools has identified WiFi Locations throughout the county. There will be external WiFi access points in every school parking lot.
- For elementary school students choosing to begin the semester with distance/digital learning, the school system is planning to utilize Accelerate Education and instructional support from OCS teachers.
- Students will be enrolled in self-paced, on grade-level, online classes through an online learning management system called Accelerate Education.
- Students in grades K-5 will need significant assistance from a parent/adult in the home (approximately 2-3 hours each day of adult assistance). This adult will become the student’s Learning Coach.
- If you are considering this option, it is essential that you watch this brief video about the role of the Learning Coach and the Accelerate Education model of delivering instruction. The Learning Coach website can be accessed here.
- While an OCS teacher will provide some support to K-5 students whose parents choose Option 2: Distance/Digital Learning Model, the teacher assigned may not be the teacher that the student would have if enrolled in in-person instruction or a teacher assigned to your child’s school.
- For middle and high school students choosing to begin the semester with distance/digital learning, the school system is planning to utilize Georgia Virtual School.
- Georgia Virtual School (GaVS) is an online instructional program affiliated with the Georgia Department of Education. GaVS has over 100 course offerings and provides a certified teacher hired by the Georgia Department of Education. Students enrolled in Georgia Virtual School courses will not be assigned an OCS teacher for that course.
- Students must be motivated, organized, self-disciplined, and supported. Students will be contacted by someone at your OCS school to assist with enrollment once the commitment letter is received. Course registration is here.
- Middle and high school students will be able to access a limited number of connections, electives, Advanced Placement, and CTAE courses.
- GaVS does not provide advanced courses at the middle school level or honors courses at the high school level. However, Oconee County Schools will provide 6th and 7th grade Accelerated Math for distance/digital students. For 8th graders, the accelerated course is High School Algebra/Geometry A, which can be taken through GaVS. In addition, AP courses are available through GaVS.
More on Distance/Digital Learning
- Elementary students will be assigned an OCS teacher to provide support and help keep them connected to their school. The school system is developing virtual activities to enhance student engagement as well. That being said, the Accelerate Education platform requires a significant commitment on the part of the Learning Coach (parent) and student. The Learning Coach will manage student learning, and each day will be structured depending on school-based virtual activities and the daily pacing of the parent and student.
- For middle/high school students, the format for distance/digital learning is changing for Spring 2020. Click here for details.
- At the elementary school level, the Accelerate Education platform is on grade-level. However, the OCS teacher assigned to the distance/digital learning students will hold the gifted endorsement and will provide a Georgia Department of Education-approved delivery model.
- At the middle school level, 6th and 7th grade Accelerated Math will be offered. Please note that 8th grade Accelerated Math is High School Algebra/Geometry A, which can be taken through GaVS.
- At the high school level, students can choose Advanced Placement courses.
- At the elementary level, an OCS teacher will assign grades.
- At the middle and high school levels, GaVS provides grades. For Spring 2021, an OCS teacher will assign grades for non-GaVS courses.
Oconee County Schools will help ensure learning continuity for distance/digital students to foster a successful return to in-person school.
- At the elementary level, OCS teachers assigned to help support students will maintain communication with Learning Coaches (parents) and students. This will help enable students to successfully shift back to the in-person model at a nine-week point if their parent so desires.
- At the middle/high school level, at the end of each semester is the close of the course, just the same as would be the case in in-person school. The exception is for year-long GaVS courses, and students/parents can contact their assistant principals for details on this plan.
Students enrolled in distance/digital learning will be able to take part in the school breakfast and lunch program. Meals are available at no cost for the 2020-21 school year.
Details are below and organized alphabetically by topic. This information is also available in FAQ format.
For elementary students attending in-person, afterschool remains available at all seven primary/elementary schools. Afterschool clubs will begin on Oct. 13, 2020.
All perfect attendance awards, school monthly attendance awards, exam exemption based on attendance, and all other attendance incentives will be waived for the 2020-21 school year. Oconee County Schools cannot completely waive truancy requirements per Georgia law. However, schools will work with parents to resolve attendance issues.
Students will eat in school cafeterias and they will be socially distanced. To foster social distancing, some students may eat in classrooms on certain days if schools are using a rotating cafeteria schedule. Of note is that plexiglass will be utilized in the serving line. Due to social distancing, visitors cannot be accommodated in the cafeteria at this time. Meals are available at no cost for all students for the entire 2020-21 school year.
Individuals (employees or students) who meet the Georgia Department of Public Health’s contact tracing guidelines will be notified by the school system via phone. In addition, individuals in a classroom where someone has tested positive for COVID-19 will be notified via email and encouraged to contact their healthcare provider. The school will be notified as well. Due to privacy laws, individuals with COVID-19 will not be identified, and we ask that others not speculate about such instances.
OCS is a 1:1 system in grades K-12.
Employees have been provided Guidelines for Employees regarding:
- What to do if they are symptomatic/test postive for COVID-19
- What do do if they are in close contact with a person with COVID-19
- Contact Tracing
- Return-to-Work Protocol
- Employee Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)
- Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA)
Extracurricular Activities (Including Athletics)
The continuation of athletics is determined in large part by the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). All available athletics and other extracurricular activities will be available to students regardless if they are enrolled in the in-person or distance/digital learning instructional models.
Field trips will not occur for the first or second nine weeks of school. State and local guidance will be utilized in making decisions beyond this point.
Illness at School
If a child is running a fever or exhibiting other COVID-19 symptoms, a parent will be contacted to pick up the child. Students with COVID-19 symptoms will be separated while waiting for their parents.
Instructional Model Changes
Oconee County Schools will use state and local guidance in making decisions regarding any needed switching between instructional models, i.e. - traditional model to hybrid model to fully distance/digital learning model, during the school year.
At the elementary level, students may change their instructional model at each nine week point during the 2020-21 school year. At the middle/high level, students may change their instructional model each semester during the 2020-21 school year.
OCS now offers new outdoor access points to provide a significant improvement in outdoor WiFi at every OCS campus. Internet at these locations - now available at every school - will work on OCS-provided devices only.
On buses, masks (not face shields) are required. Employees are required to wear masks (not face shields) when social distancing is not possible. At school, students are strongly encouraged to wear masks and may also wear face shields. Please view the CDC website for further guidance on appropriate face coverings. OCS has launched a "Mask Up, Oconee" campaign to create a culture of mask-wearing in schools.
Based on Georgia Department of Public Health Guidelines, protocol is as follows:
Symptomatic persons with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 may return to work or school after all of the following have occurred:
• At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
• At least 24 hours have passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications
• Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath)
Asymptomatic persons with confirmed COVID-19 may return to work or school after:
• At least 10 days have passed since the positive laboratory test (and the person remains asymptomatic)
Asymptomatic persons who have a known exposure to an individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19 without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), in close contact as defined above, may return to work after:
• A 14-day home quarantine period has ended
This means that if a parent has COVID-19, the child must be quarantined at home for 14 days. Students will not be able to transition to an online model unless it is at nine-week point (elementary) or semester point (middle/high) because of the way the online courses are structured. Students will be able to make up all missed work.
Outdoor play is essential for elementary students. Therefore, schools will stagger the number of classes at recess at any given time and will spread out classes on the playground. Playscapes will be cleaned daily.
To mitigate the spread of infection and viruses, the following measures will be put in place:
- Staff and students are agreeing that by virtue of coming to school, they do not have a fever above 100.3 and do not have any symptoms of illness.
- A washable mask will be provided to all staff and students.
- All staff will be required to wear masks when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- Students will also be encouraged to wear masks.
- All bus riders will be required to wear masks.
- Bus riders will be assigned seats on buses.
- Social distancing will occur when possible.
- Enhanced hand-washing and sanitizing protocols will be in place.
- School buildings and playgrounds will be thoroughly cleaned on a daily basis.
- Student numbers will be reduced in the cafeteria during breakfast/lunch.
- Outside visitors will be limited and will be required to have their temperatures taken and answer a series of questions regarding potential COVID-19 exposure.
- Water fountains will not be operational. However, water filling stations or water fountains designated as filling stations will be available for students to refill water bottles.
- Plexiglass will be used in front offices where there is not already a clear partition in place between staff and visitors. In addition, plexiglass will be utilized in cafeteria serving lines.
- Every classroom will have a hand sanitizer station. Hand sanitizer stations will also be in common areas of the school.
- Transitions will be minimized and coordinated at the school level.
- At drop-off, students will go straight to their designated area. There will be no hallway congregating before, during, or after school.
- School supplies will not be shared among students.
- Desks will be assigned within classrooms. Class transitions will occur at all levels, with schools utilizing a variety of disease mitigation measures.
- More details on disease mitigation during transitions, in the classroom, at recess, and in the cafeteria is here.
Click below for more information:
- Flexible seating is being adjusted and oversized furniture will be removed to provide the maximum possible spacing between student desks.
- Desks will face the same direction and will not be clustered together.
- There will be hallway markers to streamline hallway traffic and to limit congregating in common areas.
- Social distance markers will be in the cafeteria line and in the main lobby.
- Students will be distanced in cafeterias.
- Any small group instruction occurring will not involve shared toys or supplies. Students will be as distanced as possible and teachers are required to wear a mask if they are less than six feet from any other individuals.
Example: Oconee County High School (6 feet apart spacing shown above with 30 student desks plus teacher's desk and filing cabinet); varies by classroom and school depending on classroom size, but all classrooms set up to provide for maximum distancing
The Oconee County School District remains committed to providing students eligible for special education services with an individualized education program (IEP) that opt for distance/digital learning. Because online learning may affect how special education and related services are provided, each student’s IEP team will work to ensure that the student receives services to the most possible extent. More details on how Pre-K students and students in separate classes will be supported is here. FAQs regarding distance/digital learning for special education students is here.
Distancing and outdoor classes will be utilized as possible. Beginning on Oct. 13, 2020, students may share athletic equipment during P.E. and recess to align with practices in place at the middle and high school levels.
As students will not be socially distanced on buses, they are required to wear masks. Students not wearing masks will not be able to ride the bus. In addition, students will be assigned seats.
Essential visitors such as student-teachers and mentors are included in the first phase of school reopening. Visitors, including parent visitors, will be required to have their temperature taken and answer a series of questions regarding potential COVID-19 exposure. In addition, visitors will be required to wear masks when not socially distanced. Visitors are unable to be accommodated in the cafeteria at this time.
- Reliable internet access is required in order to participate in digital learning and a district-issued device is available for each student.