LIBERTY COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – After four weeks with students in the classroom, another local school district is moving classes online due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
The Liberty County School System is the fifth in the area to modify its plans due to COVID. Schools will continue in-person learning until Friday, before shifting virtual through Sept. 10.
Despite having a mask requirement and social distancing protocols, Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry said the COVID surge is making it too difficult for the district to keep in-person learning.
“We had teachers out, so we didn’t have enough teachers to cover classes,” Franklin told News 3. “We were having to get other teachers to come and cover classes and we had custodians out. At one school, we had all the custodians out.”
The latest COVID report from the district shows 123 students and 38 staff members tested positive for the virus. In addition, 1,057 students are in quarantine.
“We think that we can go virtual, still educate our children — not the way we would like to, but with our people getting sick, we just think this is the best thing to do at this particular time,” Franklin said.
Franklin added the greater community factors into the decision just as much as the schools.
Liberty County is reporting almost 60 new cases a week, the highest since the pandemic started. A quarter of residents are fully vaccinated, according to data from the state health department.
“I just hope that this whole community will try to do everything they can do so we will be able to get back,” Franklin said. “That’s taking the vaccine if your doctors say you can take it, that’s wearing your mask and that’s certainly staying away from others.”
Some parents are disappointed with the move to virtual learning.
“I was half expecting it to happen. I just didn’t expect it this soon,” Amber Smith said.
Smith, a parent to a 5th grader and high school senior, is concerned her children may fall behind in class while it’s online.
“She doesn’t want to deal with that again,” Smith said. “She was so happy to be able to complete her first assignments this year on paper and using pencil, that just made her so happy because she’s like, ‘I got an A!’ And now going back into this virtual environment, she has just sunk.”
Perry is hopeful the virtual learning period will only last for the scheduled two-week period, but it’s too soon to tell, he said.
“There’s nobody, I will tell you, more disappointed than I am,” Franklin said. “I firmly believe that students need to be in school.
“I know that this is not what everybody would want. But in this particular situation, I don’t know if we can satisfy everybody, but we made the best decision.”