July 7, 2020

Back to School 2020-2021: Updates

The 2020-2021 School Year will be unlike any other. While there are still many unknowns, here is what I know right now:

The Board delayed the start of school for students until August 12 for last names A-M and August 13 for last names N-Z. There will be no school for students on Friday, August 14. Full school for all students is slated to begin on Monday, August 17. The revised calendar will allow staff more time to plan, train and develop safety protocols. Additionally, staff will be trained in mental health and trauma awareness.

The District will soon send out an updated survey to families. We will ask you to choose one of the following three options that best indicate your plans for returning to school in August. Those options are: in-person instruct, digital/distance learning, and undecided. We will ask that all families finalize their choice for the Fall 2020 semester by Friday, August 21.

The District has allocated about $500K in funds related to combating COVID-19. These include allocations for masks, sanitizer, fogging machines and much more. This figure is expected to continue growing as traditional school resumes and we learn how to coexist with COVID-19.

At this point, staff will be required to wear masks or shields, and have their temperature checked before work each day. Students are strongly encouraged to wear a mask.

The Board gave approval on July 6 to purchase about 2,100 Chromebooks. The devices would make Hall County Schools a "1:1" district, meaning that each student would be assigned a device. We anticipate the devices to arrive in November, 2020.

Due to the pandemic, the Hall County Board of Education has been live-streaming recent Board Meetings on YouTube. The July 6 meeting had about 80 viewers. I am hopeful that this is a practice my colleagues will continue in an effort to keep our community involved in the happenings of their School System.

The FY21 budget will be a challenge. The Board will finalize the budget and millage levy on July 27. Currently, revenues are down 3.39% and expenses remain about level. This leaves us with about a $20M gap to fill. The proposed preliminary budget includes expending about $14M of reserves and a 6% property tax increase. I am hopeful for continued dialogue among Board Members to work on the FY21 Budget. While the Hall County jobless rate is slowly moving in the right direction, we have many unknowns about our current economic climate and many in our community are suffering. I anticipate needing to dip into our reserves several times over the next few years in order to battle COVID-19. We have a healthy "Rainy Day Fund" and it is certainly raining.

Other News

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Hall County Schools Expands Agriculture Opportunities

The Hall County Board of Education has purchased a 50 acre farm in North Hall to enhance career, technical and agriculture education opportunities for students.

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Students Break Ground on First New School Since 2007

Sixth Grade students at Cherokee Bluff Middle School were the first to break the ground at the site of the new school.

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