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COVINGTON — Newton County students who have been participating in in-person instruction will not return to the classroom on Jan. 11 as originally planned. The Newton County School System announced Tuesday that virtual learning will tentatively continue until Tuesday, Jan. 19.

In a message to parents and families posted on the school system’s Facebook page Tuesday, officials said that the increase in community transmission of COVID-19 prompted the decision. “District officials have reviewed the COVID-19 data for Newton County and also consulted this week with local medical professionals representing both the Gwinnett Newton Rockdale Health Department and Piedmont Newton Hospital,” the message states. “Due to the increase in community transmission of the virus, Newton County School System will continue our remote learning environment for students for an additional five days. All students will now utilize online learning or pre-developed work assignments through Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Students currently served in-person will now report to school on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.”

According to the school system, the extension of virtual learning for all students is a “short-term” solution to help curb spread of the virus. The school system will continue to monitor COVID-19 data in five-day increments to determine its ongoing course of action on a week-to-week basis.

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Each Wednesday the next week’s mode of instruction will be announced at 7 p.m. via a School Messenger call. For example, parents would receive a School Messenger call on Wednesday, Jan. 13 regarding school status for the week of Monday, Jan. 18 (Jan. 18 is the MLK birthday holiday for students and staff). The district will continue this procedure until the COVID-19 numbers significantly reduce to the point that a return to in-person instruction is safe.

While remote learning is in process, parents of regular in-person students may obtain free breakfast and lunch meals daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the nearest school. Weekly meal boxes are also available for pickup at the following distribution sites: Live Oak Elementary, Heard-Mixon Elementary, West Newton Elementary, Middle Ridge Elementary and Oak Hill Elementary. Virtual learning students may continue to obtain free meals at their regular bus stop drop off site.

“We realize that in-person instruction is often the most beneficial method of instruction for our students; however, the health and safety of the children and staff must be our number one priority,” the school system’s message states. “Our goal is to return to in-person instruction as quickly as possible. Our ability to return to in-person instruction is directly connected to what is happening in our community with regard to COVID-19. Each of us plays a role in stopping the transmission of the virus in our community. Please wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick.”

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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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