Supt. Cooper: Habersham County Schools UPDATE

Editor’s Note: Schools across Georgia remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following is an update from Habersham County School Superintendent Matthew Cooper on county school operations and plans. 

School Closures

Habersham County Superintendent of Schools Matthew Cooper

On Thursday, March 26th, Governor Kemp issued an executive order closing all schools in Georgia through April 24th. As a result of this order, all Habersham County Schools will remain closed through April 24th. It is possible that this closure may be extended in the future.

The other thing to consider is this – if and when it is determined that is safe to reopen schools, there will need to be a transition period between the “learning from home” plan and a normal school day.

Prior to opening schools for students, we will need to bring all staff back for a period of time and get things ready for students. This would look much like pre-planning before the start of a new school year. Numerous departments will have work to do, including custodial, technology, nutrition, maintenance, transportation, and curriculum. Teachers will need some time to get their classrooms ready for students again.

After being closed for a month or more, much preparation will need to be done before getting back to normal.

Other than Spring Break, our learning from home and food plans will continue during the closure. We urge our community to continue taking steps to protect their families during these challenging times.

2020 Graduation Ceremony

I do want to say publicly that we do NOT plan to cancel graduation for the Class of 2020.  Many of our seniors have worked very hard in our schools for 13 or 14 years, depending on whether they were in our Pre-K program.

HCHS plans to hold a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020, either as scheduled or at a later date.

I know that Habersham Central Principal Jonathan Stribling and our school board agree with me that the Class of 2020 deserves a real ceremony.

As of now, our hope is that we can still have that ceremony in Raider Stadium on May 22nd. If nothing else, we will plan to have the ceremony sometime during the summer.

During these challenging times, it is important for us to give our students hope.

Food Plan

We are continuing to make meals available at all eight elementary schools. These meals are available to anyone in Habersham County that is 18 years old or younger. Meals are available for pick up between 11:30 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday. Our elementary schools are distributed across the county quite well geographically, which helps provide adequate access to most families.

Habersham County Schools are providing lunch and breakfast to more than a thousand students weekdays during the school shutdown.

Participation in the food plan continues to increase daily.  The school system fed more than 1600 students on March 25.

The work that our nutrition workers are doing for families in Habersham County is nothing short of remarkable. While many people in our state are working from home, these ladies are coming into work early every morning and serving our students.

As long as schools are closed for students we will plan to continue the food plan. It is, however, important to note that the sustainability of the food program depends entirely upon the health and availability of our nutrition workers. Our nutrition workers are specially trained and certified to handle food. No one else in the school system will be permitted to work in our school kitchens.

As of now, we are taking things one day at a time. As the Coronavirus situation develops in Georgia and eventually here in Habersham County, we will be ready to adjust if necessary.

Learning from Home

It is hard to describe in words just how much our “learning from home” plan has meant to our students and parents. We have received nothing but positive feedback regarding the positive impact the program is having on students.

I do not think many in the community understand just how much work and planning is going on behind the scenes to make this plan work. Our teachers, staff, and administrators are pouring their hearts into serving students while they are at home.

We have built a certain level of fairness into our “learning from home plan”. We did not want a single student’s grades to suffer as the result of something like a virus that is totally beyond their control. For this reason, we have a safeguard in place to ensure that a student’s grades cannot go down as a result of the “learning from home plan”. In other words, a student can only improve their grade through the work they are doing from home.

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