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School Board Updates Back-To-School Plan

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The Giles County School Board this week released an updated back-to-school plan based on the current COVID-19 pandemic metrics for Giles County.

The county has been in medium spread, or greater than 0.5 percent of the county actively infected, for more than three days, prompting the change.

The revised schedule extends the initial phase-in period for “traditional students,” the term being used for students who will be attending school in person, to two weeks. Only students who will be attending school in person are required to attend these sessions. The traditional students will then be broken into A and B groups. Students in the A group will attend in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and continue the rest of the week with virtual learning. Students in the B group will do virtual schooling at the beginning of the week and attend in person Thursdays and Fridays.

The A/B schedule will continue until the county has remained in low spread for more than 7 calendar days. If the county reaches high spread (greater than 1 percent of the population with active cases) for three days, all students will move to full-time virtual learning.

TRADITIONAL STUDENTS

Mon, Aug. 3

Traditional students report

8:-9:30 a.m.

Buses will run.

Tues, Aug. 4

Grades 1, 4, 7, 10 report

Full day at school for assigned students

Wed, Aug. 5

Grades 2, 5, 8, 11 report

Full day at school for assigned students

Thurs, Aug 6

No school; PD for teachers

No students report to school buildings

Fri, Aug 7

Grades 3, 6, 9, 12 report

Full day at school for assigned students

Mon, Aug 10

Grades 1, 4, 7, 10

Full day at school for assigned students

Tues, Aug 11

Grades 2, 5, 8, 11 report

Full day at school for assigned students

Wed, Aug 12

E Learning Day*

No students report to school buildings

Thurs, Aug 13

Grades 3, 6, 9, 12 report

Full day at school for assigned students

Fri, Aug 14

E Learning Day*

No students report to school buildings

Source: GCBOE

The start date for students choosing full-time virtual learning has also been pushed back to Aug. 17. During the two-week phase-in period (Aug. 3-14), parents, teachers and students will participate in orientation and training “to include verification of contact information, platform navigation, student and parent expectations, device distribution and attendance requirements,” said the school board.

According to the Board of Education, “Students who are in the CDC and developmental Pre-K classrooms will be attending Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.”

Families can expect to be contacted by their children’s schools regarding A/B group assignments and virtual learning trainings.

Gov. Bill Lee released updated guidelines for Tennessee schools this week.

“Providing parents a choice in their children’s education is incredibly important,” Lee said. “In-person learning is the medically sound, preferred option. Our state is doing everything we can to work with local school districts and ensure that in-person learning is made available in a way that protects the health and safety of our students and educators, and this plan helps us accomplish that goal.”

Quarantining and contact tracing will help reduce the spread of the virus once schools reopen.

“If a child is ill, parents should not send them to school where they could infect others. If a child is diagnosed with COVID-19, parents are asked to assist the Department of Health by contacting the child’s close contacts so those individuals can quarantine at home,” the governor’s office said in a press release. If a child is exposed to COVID-19, they are asked to quarantine at home for 14 days.

The state will also be releasing resources to empower parents during this unprecedented time of learning at home, including:

Early Literacy Resource: A free resource for students Pre-K through second grade to build foundational skills and support early literacy;

PBS Learning Series: Complete lessons for first-ninth grade students in both math and ELA taught by Tennessee teachers;

STE(A)M Resource Hub: Three challenges per week to spark creative thinking, design and career exploration from the home;

Start of the Year Checkpoint: A free and optional assessment to measure student performance at the beginning of the year and help inform educators about student readiness for the year ahead.

The state is also assisting local schools by providing grant money for purchasing devices for student use, personal protective equipment for students and teachers, disinfecting kits to last the year for each classroom and additional funding for the costs associated with implementing virtual learning.

Contact sports in schools may resume following the guidelines of the TSSAA.

Giles Schools Adapt With Virtual Learning

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More than one quarter of Giles County families have chosen not to send their students back to school in person this fall due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These students will instead exclusively participate in a remote learning program offered by the Giles County School System. This same platform will be utilized in the event of school closures for those students enrolled to attend school in-person.

The leadership team at the district office chose SchoolsPLP as the virtual learning platform for the 2020-21 academic year. According to Director of Schools Dr. Vickie Beard, this system was chosen, in part, because “it provides access starting at Pre-K all the way through grade 12, which not all of the platforms did. That early education is very important to us.”

The virtual learning program will operate at no cost to families, and students will be provided with a Chromebook to complete their schoolwork. The district is not offering assistance with internet access, but has published a list of free community Wi-Fi locations which is linked on the school board website.

Students will be enrolled in classes taught by Giles County educators, in classes alongside their peers attending in person. The Giles County School Board feels that this will ease the transition for students when returning to the classroom as well as help remote students feel more connected to the school, according Beard.

Educators will begin training on the platform during their in-service days at the end of this month. Parents and Students will be on-boarded during the first week of school, beginning Aug. 3. Classes will commence officially Aug. 10.

Virtual lessons may include videos uploaded to Google Classroom, Zoom meetings and online coursework on the virtual platform. A full schedule of classes will be offered. Students are expected to be logged in a minimum of 3.5 hours a day and complete additional work offline.

According to Tennessee Department of Education guidelines, “A certain portion of the day has to be direct instruction,” Beard said.

This means synchronous (real-time) discussions or question-and-answer with the instructor and other students. These interactions are especially important for the youngest grades. The scheduling of these live interactions are at the discretion of the individual teacher.

Educational content will also be delivered through the virtual platform for the students to complete independently (or with parental help), and will be evaluated by the teacher daily.

Virtual learning students who are enrolled in sports, extracurricular activities and CTE courses will be able to participate in those on campus, if they are available. Students enrolled in classes at Martin Methodist College or TCAT-Pulaski may still attend those classes at the discretion of the post-secondary institution.

Bulk lunches will be provided for virtual learning students on Wednesdays at their respective schools. Students must be present to receive the meals.

The deadline for registering for virtual learning was July 20, but additional enrollments will be permitted as medically indicated. The Board has established a grace period through Aug. 14 for families to switch between educational modalities. Additional enrollment modifications can be made after each nine-week grading period.

Beard emphasized that remote learning students are still very much a part of the school community.

“You should be hearing from our schools, whether it’s a counselor or the staff in the cafeteria,” she said. “We want our remote learners to feel a part of the school.”

Key Takeaways For All Students

• The first week of school will be a phase-in/training week to transition into the 2020-21 school year. Regular schedules will begin Aug. 10 for virtual and in-person students.

• All students may participate in athletics, CTE courses and extracurricular activities as they are made available.

• Accommodations for students with IEP, 504 plans or other special educational needs will be made.

Brick and Mortar Learning

• The weekly schedule will be full days Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, with either half days or all virtual learning from home on Wednesdays, depending on the county-wide levels of COVID-19 cases through at least Fall break.

• All students in a classroom could be sent home to participate in virtual learning for 10 days if a classmate tests positive for COVID-19.

• If a student or faculty member tests positive for COVID-19 and was exposed to members of multiple classrooms, the whole school may close for two-three days for deep cleaning and contact tracing.

• Masks are not required but are encouraged.

Virtual Learning

•  Students will be provided with a Chromebook to participate.

• SchoolsPLP is the platform the County chose for virtual learning.

• Virtual learning students will be in a class with students attending in person.

• Virtual lessons may include videos uploaded to Google Classroom, Zoom meetings and online coursework on the virtual platform.

• Students are required to be logged in for 3.5 hours a day.

How College Students Can Confront Returning to Campus

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The world’s response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus left no aspect of life untouched. People from all walks of life had to make sacrifices to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus, and college students were no exception.

Many colleges and universities abruptly canceled in-person classes in mid-March 2020, forcing students to finish their coursework via remote learning. That response had a significant impact on the 2019-20 school year, and the virus figures to affect the upcoming school year just as much.

In fact, many colleges and universities are beginning the coming school year early in the hopes that students can continue their educations on campus but be safely back home by late November, when many scientists are anticipating a second wave of COVID-19 infections will arrive.

Schools that are reopening insist that it is safe to do so, and have even indicated their intentions to implement new practices to ensure their campuses are safe and healthy environments in which to learn. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is reconfiguring in-person course instruction to include physical distancing provisions. Small classes will meet in larger spaces, while lectures may be delivered remotely.

Despite such measures, some students may still be hesitant to return to campus at a time when so much about the COVID-19 virus remains a mystery.

The following are some ways students can confront any nervous feelings they may have about returning to campus for a new school year.

• Determine your options. While many colleges and universities are returning to campus, some may be allowing students to learn remotely. For instance, students with preexisting conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 may be allowed to continue learning from home. Many schools’ roadmaps to returning are fluid, so students concerned about returning to campus likely have options that do not require them to sit out the semester.

• Learn about residential life. Many college students live in dorms that feature double or even triple occupancy rooms. Such an environment will compromise students’ ability to practice social distancing. Some schools, including Binghamton University in New York, are converting triple occupancy rooms into double occupancy. Both Binghamton and UNC Chapel Hill also are designating one residential hall as temporary housing for students who test positive for COVID-19. In addition, some schools may be designating certain residential facilities for at-risk students. Students who want to avoid the dorms should inquire about off-campus, single-person housing.

• Ask about testing. Students have a right to know about COVID-19 testing protocols and should not hesitate to ask what those protocols will be. Due to the fluid nature of schools’ roadmaps to return, testing policies may not yet be set in stone, and are likely to evolve as the school year progresses. Students should look into the testing policy specifics and ask if they have any recourse if they feel the testing policy is inadequate.

Students who are hesitant to return to campus this summer or fall can do their due diligence to determine if they’re comfortable going back to campus.

How To Prepare Kids To Go Back To School

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The end of summer can be a bittersweet time for students.

While many students look forward to seeing their friends, few want to say goodbye to the relaxing days of summer.

Parents know that getting their children back in the school day swing of things can be a challenge.

The following are some ways to make that transition go smoothly.

• Introduce more structure as summer vacation winds down. The chance to unwind in a structure-free setting can benefit students at the onset of summer vacation.

Many parents grapple with the notion that their children’s lives are overscheduled, and the Cleveland Clinic notes that limiting organized activities clears up down time for kids to play and relax and spend time with their families.

So it’s important that parents afford their children this down time during summer vacation, only gradually introducing more structure as the school year draws closer. In the weeks before the school year is slated to begin, start waking kids up a little earlier and reintroducing bedtimes for younger children who may have been staying up later over the last couple of months.

This can be an effective way to begin slowly preparing youngsters for the structure of the school year.

• Focus on the positive. Even kids who love school may be apprehensive about returning to the classroom. After all, summer vacation is fun. Parents can confront that apprehension by focusing on the positives of returning to school.

Emphasize the chance to see friends every day or participate in a beloved extracurricular activity, like sports, band or a favorite academic club.

• Let kids do some of their own back-to-school shopping. The items that constitute back to school supplies may have changed since parents were in school.

But many parents still take their children on back-to-school clothes shopping excursions. Let kids choose their own clothes, as an opportunity to wear clothes they picked themselves might make them excited for the new school year. Parents can take various steps to make the transition back to school a successful one for their young students.

Southside Hosts Open House Thursday

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Making the Transition to Life on a College Campus

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Much has been made of the challenges that have faced students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift to remote learning and shortened school days was difficult for many families, forcing students to adapt to virtual school on the fly as their parents adjusted to working from home full-time while doing their best to keep kids engaged in their studies and occupied when school lets out each day. Given those challenges, it’s no wonder so many families are looking forward to what figures to be a more normal school year in 2021-22. But that return will pose its own unique challenges as well.

Some students may be a little anxious as they prepare to return to campus this fall. That transition could be especially difficult for incoming college freshmen, who must overcome any pandemic-related concerns about returning to campus while also making the transition to life on a college campus. The following are some ways to make that transition go smoothly.

• Engage in the community. The Health, Counseling and Disability Access Services at the University of Missouri-St. Louis urges students to take advantage of opportunities to engage in their new communities as early as possible. The HCDAS notes that first-year experiences are designed to help students connect with their new life on campus and make new friends. All incoming freshmen are facing the same set of unique circumstances as the 2021-22 school year begins. That includes the adjustment from remote learning with limited social contact with peers to a return to more traditional academic and social settings. Navigating that transition alongside other incoming freshmen can make it a little easier to handle.

• Plan ahead. Parents and their college-bound children can prepare for the coming school year by learning about on-campus policies over the summer. Will masks be mandated? Will classrooms remain socially distanced? Are vaccinations required to attend class in person? The sooner families learn these policies, the sooner they can begin planning for life on campus. Parents also can look into on-campus resources designed to help students readjust to being back among their peers. Knowing where to go for help should students need it can ensure any issues that arise are addressed promptly.

• Encourage students to share their concerns. Opening up about any concerns they may have can help students as they emerge from the pandemic. Many parents were concerned about returning to the office in person, and they can share those concerns and the ultimate outcomes of their returns with students concerned about moving onto a college campus. Parents are urged to periodically check in with college students about any anxieties they may have about being on campus.

Returning to full-time, in-person learning after the pandemic may be especially challenging for incoming college freshmen. Such students can work with their parents over the summer to conquer their fears and prepare for the coming school year.

—Metro Services

Back to School Bash Set for Sunday

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Extracurricular Activities Have Many Benefits

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School offers much more than a top-notch education. Being an engaged student involves learning lessons in the classroom but also participating in the myriad activities that begin once the dismissal bell has rung.

Participation in extracurricular activities should be a consideration for every student because of the vast array of benefits such pursuits provide.

Information published in the Brandon University Journal of Graduate Studies in Education indicates that participation in extracurricular activities positively correlates with students’ development both academically and personally. Research shows being involved in afterschool clubs and sports promotes greater character development, improved academic success, good time-management techniques and leadership skills, and greater interest in community involvement.

Every school offers some type of extracurricular activity — from school bands to academic clubs to volunteer groups to sports. The National Center for Education Statistics says these activities offer students opportunities to learn many valuable lessons, including group responsibility and the value of competition. Some activities also help students develop their mental and physical strength.

The NCES notes that participation in extracurricular activities can foster a strong sense of connection between students and their schools, which can reduce the likelihood of school failures and dropout rates.

Furthermore, diversifying one’s interests through extracurricular activities broadens a person’s world view and improves self-esteem. These are benefits that can ultimately help students become well-rounded persons and successful professionals.

While people are quick to view extracurriculars for the academic advantages they provide, one often overlooked benefit is the social benefits of these pursuits. One of the best and easiest ways to make friends is through extracurricular activities. Fellow participants share the same interests and that can lay a solid foundation for lasting friendships.

Students who view extracurriculars as vital components of their school experiences can reap the rewards of being active members of their campus communities.

—Metro Services

How to Prepare Kids to Go Back to School

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The end of summer can be a bittersweet time for students. While many students look forward to seeing their friends, few want to say goodbye to the relaxing days of summer.

Parents know that getting their children back in the school day swing of things can be a challenge. The following are some ways to make that transition go smoothly.

• Introduce more structure as summer vacation winds down. The chance to unwind in a structure-free setting can benefit students at the onset of summer vacation. As the school year is slated to begin, start waking kids up a little earlier and reintroducing bedtimes for younger children who may have been staying up later over the last couple of months. This can be an effective way to prepare youngsters for the structure of the school year.

• Focus on the positive. Even kids who love school may be apprehensive about returning to the classroom. After all, summer vacation is fun. Parents can confront that apprehension by focusing on the positives of returning to school. Emphasize the chance to see friends every day or participate in a beloved extracurricular activity, like sports, band or a favorite academic club. 

• Let kids do some of their own back-to-school shopping. The items that constitute back to school supplies may have changed since parents were in school. But many parents still take their children on back-to-school clothes shopping excursions. Let kids choose their own clothes and supplies, when possible, as an opportunity to wear clothes and use items they picked themselves might make them excited for the new school year.

Parents can take various steps to make the transition back to school a successful one for their young students.

—Metro Services