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GCPS announced Wednesday it would continue digital learning days and meal deliveries through March 27. 

Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said Thursday afternoon to the county’s Board of Education that in his decades-long career in public education, he’s never experienced anything like the past few weeks.

Roughly one week earlier, Gwinnett County Public Schools announced it was closing its buildings to teachers and students amid the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, GCPS has announced it will resume its second week of digital learning and meal deliveries to bus stops and 68 school locations on March 23.

The answers to a handful of community questions were left up in the air as GCPS leaders expressed Thursday that they’re exercising caution by releasing updates week-by-week.

“One of the things we’re pretty sure of, nobody has a good handle of what the next several weeks are going to look like,” Wilbanks said Thursday regarding the virus’ spread, which had a confirmed 287 cases in Georgia and 10 deaths. “We need to make plans for wherever we are … In 55 years, I thought I’d seen everything, and I’d never really seen something quite like this.”

Two Board of Education members called into the work session and business meeting, District III representative Mary K. Murphy and District IV’s Everton Blair, Jr.

The district’s Wednesday night announcement to students, parents, guardians and employees confirmed meal deliveries would continue free of charge on school days leading up to the beginning of the district’s spring break. In four days the district had served more than 100,000 meals to children under 18 at schools or bus stops.

As far as meals are concerned, there’s nothing official beyond March 27, the last day of classes before spring break. CFO Jeff Hefron said GCPS is receiving federal reimbursement to pay for student meals through its Seamless Summer program, which typically operates in clusters with high percentages of free and reduced lunch after school lets out. Hefron said GCPS has a schedule through March 27 and there will be no services during spring break.

“(Meal deliveries) are some of the things we’re trying to assess long term — if this goes out another week, three to four week or closer to the end of the school year — what viable options do we have to provide this?” Heffron said. “We’re asking — from the school nutrition standpoint — starting to reach out to our vendors and see what options they have and will they be able to provide the products and services to us.”

Heffron said GCPS leaders will reach out to vendors during spring break to see what they can continue to provide.

There’s still, too, uncertainty about how state decisions will affect GCPS employees and students. On Monday, the Georgia Department of Education announced it suspended all required state testing. The state has also suspended teacher and leader evaluation requirements.

Associate Superintendent Steve Flynt said the pandemic task force is working to address a range of community questions, including graduation and promotion criteria. Between March 23-27, GCPS will provide another update on the status of digital learning days and meal services following spring break. Flynt said there is no official update on promotion criteria, graduation ceremonies, summer school and camps or the start of the 2021 school year.

“We are planning for all of this, we just don’t know what’s going to happen and so it’s probably best not to speculate what we might do just yet,” Flynt said.

Flynt said there will be reduction in graduation requirements while state tests are suspended. He said the district is able to assess students’ “mastery of the Academic Knowledge and Skills” to promote students for the next school year.

“We’re going to have to make some adjustments,” Flynt said. “I think the main thing we need to look at is the mastery of the Academic Knowledge and Skills.”

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Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories about the county in which he grew up.

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(10) comments

AmiB

[thumbdown]why bring the lunches if your going to serve garbage? Kids are getting pbj apples and a milk. Nothing hot. If the intention is to provide meals for kids that might not have lunch why not serve something as hardy as regular cafeteria meals..sandwhich veggies fruit etc? This is a waste of gas and time. I saw kids leave our bus stop disappointed.

booksmart

Are you kidding me? GCPS puts hard working employees on the front line and you are not happy with the lunches?!!!!? Wow I think you are missing a much bigger point here. Just WOW!

Atlguy10

They could serve a seven course meal and someone could complain. Why not say thank you for thinking about the kids that don't get to eat? Try to find something positive instead of always being negative.

Ctopher

Speaking as one of the employees out delivering food I find this comment very ignorant! There are children in our county that only get to eat food when they are at school. I don’t think those kids are turning their noses up at “pbj apple and a milk” I have seen children over joyed when they got their lunch. I heard a child ask if there was anyway we could bring breakfast because she was very hungry by 12pm. And you need to understand the county is doing all they can. There are supplier issues going on, some schools are trying to use anything and everything they have to make sure these kids get something. So if you even have students in the county that need lunch then why don’t you feed them yourself. Maybe then they will get the fine dining you think they deserve, but don’t get online and bash anyone for doing “not enough”. Again it’s very ignorant!

booksmart

Thank you for saying what we were all thinking and for sharing your experience. These kids depend on the kindness of people like you. Bless you.

I have concerns

This is a joke. Look at the picture of the at-risk employee. How do you practice social distancing if you're handing out lunches? WHY ARE SOME EMPLOYEES BEING MADE TO REPORT TO SCHOOL FOR WORK? WHY IS THIS OKAY????

Ctopher

Employees are not being made to report to school! We are allowed and encouraged to stay home if we do not feel comfortable or are not feeling well. The people still showing up at the job are there for the same reason, to try and serve our students the best we can. We are there to make sure our students that don’t have anything at home will at least get something to eat each day. All the drivers and nutrition workers and custodians that keep coming in are doing it because we want to. It has nothing to do with force. And the county is making sure we follow the “social distancing” the best we can. Buses only have a few people on them and we are asked to stay as separate as possible. Everyone is trying to do their best in an impossible situation.

booksmart

All school buildings need to be completely closed-to EVERYONE. GCPS continues to show how little they care about their employees wellbeing in light of this unprecedented health crisis. The GCPS administration are completely out of touch with the reality of this situation.

Ctopher

If GCPS closes to EVERYONE then what happens to our students who will go hungry? GCPS is trying to do the best they can in this impossible situation. The employees going in are encouraged to practice “social distancing” the best we can. Only a few drivers are put on each bus. The nutrition workers are keeping their distance. And the custodians are working in overdrive to sanitize the schools. All employees working are doing what they can to serve the students we all care so much about. Is the situation perfect? No it isn’t but I believe it’s the best solution we have as of now.

booksmart

You are right and I thank you for your comment.

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