State School Superintendent Richard Woods on Return to School Concerns
Monday, August 10th, 2020
As the school year begins, schools across our state are working hard to serve students, whether virtually or in-person. They are implementing intensive protocols to keep their students, teachers, and staff safe and I am deeply appreciative of their efforts.
We have heard concerns in these opening days that I wish to address. First, we have received many questions about hallway transitions and class changes. Our reopening guidelinesdeveloped in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health lay out strategies schools can use to limit the number of students congregating during transitions, including staggered class changes and hallway flow paths. While these are recommendations and not mandates, we do strongly suggest that schools consider implementing these strategies.
Additionally, while the use of face coverings/masks is not mandated by the state, it is strongly recommended in settings where social distancing is difficult to accomplish – including hallway transitions. Local school districts do have the authority to require face coverings as part of their dress code policy.
We have also heard concerns about students disciplined for sharing photos taken at school. To be very clear, discipline decisions are constitutionally the purview of local boards of education. With that said, I want to encourage our districts and schools to operate with transparency, and to ensure that students and staff are not penalized for expressing their concerns.
I recognize that this situation is brand-new for everyone navigating it. We are forging this path together, and the Georgia Department of Education continues to stand in support of Georgia's school leaders, teachers, students, parents, and families."