DCSS to Move Forward With In-Person School Restart with Enhanced Safety Protocols

Staff Report

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

The Dougherty County School System will move forward with starting the school year with in-person instruction for all PK-12 students on August 16, Superintendent Kenneth Dyer says. 

“The safety of our students, employees and visitors remains our top priority,” Dyer said. “That’s why we’ve taken time to learn from last year and have introduced enhancements to our safety protocols to ensure that the classroom environment is as safe as any school anywhere.”

Those enhancements include the installation of high-tech bipolar ionization air purifiers for each classroom that filter out airborne contaminants including viruses such as COVID-19. Additionally, the district will continue the use of electrostatic sprayers that can sanitize large areas such as classrooms quickly, allowing for buildings to be disinfected daily. 

The district also plans to conduct voluntary weekly COVID-19 testing to help catch asymptomatic cases before they spread through the student and staff populations. Parents will be able to opt out of testing. The DCSS is also promoting vaccination by partnering with Phoebe Putney Health System and Albany Area Primary Health Care to offer onsite vaccination clinics during the school year.

The investments and enhancements come on top of an already thorough safety protocol that includes requiring masks for all students and employees regardless of vaccination status both in buildings and on buses, temperature checks upon entry to any DCSS facility, the use of three-sided desk shields, hand sanitizing and social distancing where possible. 

The district is hopeful that the safety protocols will ease the minds of concerned parents who are weighing returning their students back to school after a year of a hybrid approach that studies show left many students academically and socially behind.

“In-person instruction is the most effective form of instruction for our students,” Dyer said. “That’s why we’ve worked so diligently to strike a balance between safety and the academic, as well as social-emotional development of our students.”

Still, district leadership understands that parents may need a digital option for their students. That’s why the district has invested in an asynchronous form of digital instruction for those students who have underlying health conditions, or other extenuating circumstances. Communication to parents with information about requesting virtual instruction for their students will be released today. 

“The data shows that students who primarily used a virtual option last year fell behind, and those who were already behind, fell even further behind,” Dyer said. “That’s why we believe that it’s critical to have as many students in-person as possible.”