Glynn County Schools will reopen Monday for in-person learning in the “yellow” level of operations.

All students and staff members will be required to wear masks on campus for at least one week.

Less than 600 students, or around 5% of the district’s student population, will begin virtual learning next week through the Glynn Virtual Academy.

The district wrapped up two weeks of distance learning Friday after entering the “red” level Aug. 24 and closing schools to students Aug. 30. More than 3% of the district’s staff and students had reported positive COVID-19 cases, which according to the district’s pandemic response plans required all schools to close for distance learning.

According to the most recently reported numbers of COVID-19 cases among students and staff, around .76% of the district’s population has reported positive COVID-19 cases.

However, because the district must rely on parents to report their students’ positive cases, those numbers may be inaccurate and short.

The estimated percentage of positive cases is 1.44%, according to COVID-19 case reports for school-aged children in Glynn County made by the Department of Public Health.

Scott Spence, superintendent of Glynn County Schools, said during the board of education’s work session Thursday that he’s optimistic COVID-19 case numbers will continue to decline locally over the next couple of weeks.

“I do think we’ll be in the green in two weeks based on the trends that we’re seeing — and not only here in Glynn County but the trends that we’re seeing in Southeast Georgia,” Spence said.

Middle and high school students who signed up for virtual learning will have orientation Monday and Tuesday. Elementary students signed up for virtual will have orientation Sept. 17 and will begin classes through Google Classroom on Sept. 20.

Students in sixth through 12th grade will attend virtual school through the Edgenuity program.

The school district began the academic year in August without a virtual option for elementary students because staff recognize that in-person learning is a better option for younger students.

“Although we know that it’s best for young children to be in front of teachers, we also want to be compassionate and understanding to our parents and their concerns,” said Tere Miller, assistant superintendent for grades pre-K through 5. “So when we saw the rise in COVID numbers, we decided that we would offer the virtual learning for elementary and also reopen it for middle and high. To be honest with you, we had a lot more applications than what we ever anticipated — even in the middle and high school areas where they already had the window open before.”

The school board also returned to its conversation about the benefits and challenges of a mask mandate.

School board member Mike Hulsey said he feels wearing a mask should be a personal choice left up to students and their families.

“If you feel like the masks are protecting you from getting COVID or transmitting COVID, then by all means wear a mask,” he said.

School board member Audrey Gibbons said the school board and district leaders are entrusted with protecting students and staff while they’re on campus.

“We are a governing body, and we are responsible for so many other people besides ourselves and our immediate family,” she said. “They’re holding us accountable, and when we make choices we’re not just making it based on my personal belief or yours.”

The biggest priority, Spence said, is keeping students in school for face-to-face learning. And no matter what decisions are made, some in the community will voice complaints and suggest an alternative approach, he said.

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