TALBOTTON, Ga. (WRBL) – As the 2021-2022 school year approaches, the Talbot County School District is emphasizing one thing, safety. Although the COVID-19 pandemic presents many uncertainties, Superintendent Dr. James Catrett, is highlighting the importance of keeping students, teachers and the community safe this school year.
“It was our job to keep our kids, our community as safe as possible. That is the number one goal here, number one goal. We can always say that we can catch up a kid but if a kids not here, we can’t catch them up,” said Catrett.
During the 2020-2021 school year, the school district held a threat committee meeting everyday. Those meetings included the school nurse, administrators and occasionally people from the health department to discuss how to keep the COVID-19 threat to a minimum.
Catrett said many protocols are very different now due to the pandemic. Students who take the bus have their temperature taken and if they have a fever they are placed in “quarantine seats”. Students no longer eat lunch in the cafeterias and are separated six feet apart in the hallways and classrooms. Going into the new school year, students will have a mask optional option however, teachers will still be required to wear masks.
Catrett wants to limit the possibilities of students taking any diseases back home to their parents, especially with the delta variant out.
“We are really afraid of the new variants that might be coming out. We need to ensure our community that we’re on top of that. That we’re watching, that we’re looking, that we still are in full safety mode here,” said Catrett.
Catrett said all school staff members are not obligated to be vaccinated against COVID-19 however, there has been a strong suggestion to do so. He believes about 70% of the staff has been vaccinated.
The school district intends to continue instruction mainly in-person for the upcoming school year. However, if the school shuts down for any circumstances teachers are prepared to continue classes virtually and via packets for students that do not have access to the internet.
Although the school district would like to have every child back in school this fall, they are committed to working with every child’s needs. Catrett said the benefit of being a smaller school district is the ability to personally know each child and assist their individual needs.
According to Catrett, The Talbot School System is the largest employer in Talbot County. He believes that was a big factor in not losing any bus drivers during the pandemic. He said no one was laid off in order to continue money flowing within the community.
After school sports will be assessed as the year goes on. The school district intends to continue emphasizing things like social distancing in the viewer stands and no sharing of water bottles and towels among athletes. However, Catrett fears for the future of the sports. The athletics department depends heavily on fundraising and concession stand funds, which decreased because of the pandemic. He does not know if athletics will be able to continue if those numbers don’t go back up.
Cynthia Epps, the Assistant Superintendent for the Talbot County School System, said she mirrors Catrett’s goal of emphasizing safety in the upcoming school year.
“Please trust us to put our safety protocols in place. We are not only talking about them and writing them down, we are actually going through the process. It is our promise that we will keep everyone here at the schools safe. Nothing is guaranteed but we will do our best to put safety first,” said Epps.