The changes only apply to the current school year, which educators say is likely over as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. William Flanary, the county’s director of schools, said no decision has been made by Gov. Bill Lee as to whether students will be allowed to return to classes in this school year.
Washington County joined other school systems in suspending classes on March 20 — as directed by the governor — until April 24. The county’s school year is scheduled to end on May 22. School officials say they don’t expect students to return to the classroom until the new school year begins on Aug. 3.
“We will have missed 29% of the school year,” Flanary said of the days missed for the pandemic.
The director said waivers are being issued at both the federal and state levels to address the shortened school year. Flanary told Board of Education members the marks students recorded on the day classes were suspended will be their final grades, unless students work with their teachers remotely to improve those marks.
Flanary said he and other educators are worried about the impact missed school days could have on the academic success of students.
“Research said 30% of what students learned in the previous school year might be lost over the summer break,” he said, adding it could take up to “three academic years” to overcome the deficit.
The director of schools said the system has provided more than 50,000 meals from its four preparatory kitchens to children since classes were suspended last month. Flanary said nearly 2,000 students received 11,000 meals (three packaged breakfasts and three packaged lunches each) on Wednesday alone.
He said the dietary staff and the kitchen managers “are working hard” to meet the demand. Flanary told board members some of the costs of the feeding program are expected to be reimbursed by the federal government.
Meanwhile, the board voted to pay the four kitchen mangers an extra $5 an hour for their work. Board members agreed last month to pay no more than 10 dietary employees at each feeding site a supplement of $10 an hour for the work.