SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The first days of school have come and gone for all 25 local districts in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry.
COVID-19 has already impacted school operations, with some districts modifying schedules and others implementing mask mandates.
The most significant change in operations came from Ware County Schools, where classes have been suspended for two weeks. Until Tuesday, Sept. 7, no instruction will be taking place — even virtually.
The district said the decision was made to give staff and students ample time to recover from COVID.
Masks were optional for students, staff members and visitors when school began. It’s unclear yet if a mandate will be implemented once classes resume.
Three school systems — in Long, McIntosh and Screven counties — have decided to go virtual due to an increase in COVID cases.
The Long County School System plans to reevaluate on Sept. 1 and is exploring options available to extend virtual learning for some students for the rest of the semester.
McIntosh County Schools closed its doors this week. Virtual learning is expected to begin Wednesday, Aug. 25, with students back in person starting Tuesday, Sept. 7.
The Screven County School System will conduct digital learning from Monday, Aug. 23, to Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Long County students were required to wear masks only on buses and during transitions. Masks were optional in both McIntosh and Screven counties.
Three other districts are adopting modified schedules that will give students two days of in-person learning each week.
The school systems in Emanuel, Jeff Davis and Wayne counties are each splitting up students into two groups. The first group will attend classes on Mondays and Tuesdays; the second will head to school on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be reserved for deep cleaning.
The Wayne County School System required masks at the start of the school year. Emanuel County Schools required them only on buses, and Jeff Davis County Schools never mandated them.
Bus driver shortages exacerbated by the pandemic have also impacted local districts.
The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) started off the year with limited transportation available.
Bulloch County Schools and the Jasper County School District both announced this week they would be dismissing some bus riders early until more drivers are available.
To mask or not to mask?
Four local school systems have required masks from the first day of school, including in Camden, Chatham, Evans and Wayne counties.
Three districts — in Bryan, Coffee and Glynn counties — started off the year without masks, but have since announced mandates.
Meanwhile, masks remain optional in the following county school districts: Appling, Bacon, Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Tattnall, Toombs, Beaufort and Jasper.
The Hampton County School District is requiring masks only on buses, despite the state budget proviso that blocks schools from implementing mandates.