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COVINGTON — A new school calendar with the school year for students beginning on Aug. 24 and ending June 4, 2021 was approved by the Newton Board of Education Tuesday. The board also discussed options for reopening school for the 2020-2021 year.

The new calendar was a change from one initially proposed by Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey that would have started the school year on Aug. 17. After a good deal of discussion, school board members decided the Aug. 17 opening date would not give school system administrators, teachers and staff members enough time to put COVID-19 changes and protocols in place.

While acknowledging that the unpredictability of COVID-19 makes planning uncertain, school board members discussed a plan for reopening schools that involves three instructional models:

♦ Traditional in-person instruction five days per week at school for grades 3K through 12. This model would depend upon the level of community spread of COVID-19 as determined by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

♦ A school-based virtual model for grades pre-K through 12. This model would use school-based instructors providing online instruction.♦

♦ A self-paced virtual academy for grades six through 12. This model will include teacher support to make certain that students stay on track.

Parents or guardians would need to select one of the models for their students. The school system expected to have a link to make those selections ready on Infinite Campus in the next day or so.

Dr. Sheila Thomas, chief of Strategy and Support Services for the school system, told school board members that virtual learners will use Canvas, a software program that will integrate all instructional tools together. Canvas allows teachers to create and organize content, and students to access coursework and grades while giving parents the ability to track assignments and student performance.

In addition, she said devices will be provided for students who need them, and hotspots will be provided for those who do not have internet service.

In-person learners will be expected to wear a mask on school buses and in school buildings, although the plan stops short of mandating a mask be worn. Masks will be issued to students and staff who need them. Frequent handwashing and stringent hygiene practices, cleaning and sanitizing of buildings and buses will be implemented.

The calendar option approved by the board Tuesday is the second change from the calendar initially approved last year, which would have started school on Aug. 3.

The new calendar, which includes 180 days for students and 190 for teachers, is as follows:

♦ Monday, Aug. 24, first day of school for students

♦ Monday, Sept. 7, Labor Day holiday

♦ Mo♦ nday, Oct. 12, fall break

♦ Tuesday, Nov. 3, teacher work day

♦ Nov. 25, 26 and 27, Thanksgiving break

♦ Dec. 21 through Jan. 1, winter break

♦ Monday, Jan. 4, teacher work day

♦ Monday, Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. holiday

♦ Monday, Feb. 15, midwinter break

♦ April 5-9, spring break

♦ Monday, May 31, Memorial Day holiday

♦ Friday, June 4, early release and last day of school

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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