RCPS Superintendent Dr Terry Oatts 021720.jpg

Dr. Terry Oatts

CONYERS — The Rockdale County school system will continue with its plan to return to in-person instruction after the first semester, according to an update Thursday night from Superintendent Dr. Terry Oatts.

While school systems in other counties have resumed in-person instruction or are planning a phased return to school, Oatts said he wants to be clear that Rockdale is currently on track to provide all-virtual instruction for the first semester. Unlike some other school systems, Rockdale has a fully established one-to-one technology program in which every student in the district is provided a computer device.

“We are still planning to continue with virtual-only for fall semester while continuing to monitor local COVID-19 data,” said Oatts during a virtual Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

Oatts said he consults two principal COVID-19 data sources on a weekly basis — the Gwinnett Rockdale Newton Health Department dashboard from the Department of Public Health and a weekly update from Rockdale Emergency Management Director Dan Morgan.

In particular, Oatts said he looks at the positivity rate for Rockdale County. Oatts said he would need to see the rate at 5% or less for a couple of weeks before considering a return to classrooms.

Oatts said he wants the public to understand that his decision to return to in-person instruction will be based on local data.

“We have to make informed decisions based on data at that time,” he said.

When students do return to the classrooms, Oatts said the system will follow the hybrid plan developed this past summer in which students will have some days of in-person instruction and some days of virtual learning each week.

He also said by delaying in-person instruction until second semester, he hopes to avoid a “confluence” of COVID-19, seasonal flu and norovirus.

“We are confident this is the best thing for our student and staff safety right now,” he said.

Although in-person instruction remains on hold, Oatts decided to allow fall sports conditioning to resume on Sept. 14.

“This decision will afford our fall sports student-athletes the opportunity for structured and supervised conditioning in preparation for eventual fall sports competition during second semester,” Oatts said in a released statement. “We will continue to monitor our local, regional and statewide COVID-19 data to inform our decisions regarding fall sports. While our local data is improving somewhat, key indicators such as positivity rate and 14-day case rates warrant further monitoring and scrutiny. Our goal remains to let our student-athletes compete as soon as it is reasonably safe to do so.”

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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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