SCCPSS board approves new measures for Return to Learn plan

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Savannah-Chatham County School System is working to bring teachers back to the classroom but some parents say schools should shut down completely as the district manages recent COVID-19 outbreaks.

Two new motions have been approved by the school board that would bring teachers back in-person when it’s safe and possibly send students back to virtual learning if COVID-19 transmission rates return to the red zone.

Chatham County parents are not pleased with the school board’s decision to reopen schools. Demonstrators held signs in protest asking the board to follow the science and close schools until the daily covid case rate is fewer than 10, which is in the green zone.

“We shut the schools down in March with fewer cases than we have now and so it is a willful ignorance and it’s purposeful blindness,” Pastor Thomas Sills with the Connor’s Temple Baptist Church said.

Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett reiterated that schools are following all CDC guidelines to keep staff and students safe. When choosing to close a school or classroom she says every case is different and the district is doing it out of safety.

“We do not like announcing closures but as we have been discussing the entire time the more people that are in the buildings the more we can expect rolling closures,” Levett said.

The reopening process comes with many positives, but lack of in-person teachers remains a concern among staff members. The board voted but not without opposition to bring teachers back.

District 6 Board Member Dr. David Bringman along with others put together two motions. Teachers and staff except those that qualify for an exemption under board policy will be required to return to work at their assigned building worksite when Chatham County’s county transmission rate is at or below 100 or as of December 31, 2020, when the CARES ACT expires.

“We’re going to end up closing schools again because there’s going to be a spike in the community,” District 8 Board Member Dr. Tonia Howard-Hall said.

The second motion approved says if Chatham County’s transmission of COVID increases to the point that the daily case rate and transmission levels are all in the red zone, all students will go back to virtual learning. Schools could reopen after 14 days if the numbers go back down.

Some parents still feel opening school five days a week should be an option.

“The fact that we have entire classes and schools that cannot meet the educational needs and wants of their parents and teachers to offer that in-person learning is embarrassing,” Parent, Amanda Barnes said.

The pressure is also coming from students. More than 900 students have signed a petition saying it’s not fair that they can’t get an actual education.

“If teachers can go to the grocery store and be around all those people, they can go to their jobs to help their students achieve success,” Student, Madison Caldwell said.

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