Gwinnett County Public Schools parents who want their children back in the classroom will eventually get their wish after all.

Just not for at least the first two weeks of the school year, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks announced on Tuesday.

Gwinnett County schools will still begin the school year in an all digital format for all students on Aug. 12, but some students will be allowed to return to schools for in-person instruction starting Aug. 26. Eventually, all students will be allowed to be in school for in-person instruction, if their families chose to do so, by Sept. 9.

“We have stated from the beginning of the COVID crisis that in-person instruction for every student is what we prefer and would work to achieve,” Wilbanks said in a letter to parents. “That remains our primary objective, and is the focus of this letter. We will begin to implement in-person instruction for students whose parents desire it, and do so as soon and as safely as possible.”

Gwinnett county Public Schools’ plans for the 2020-2021 school year have shifted a few times over the summer. Initially, the district was set to begin the school year this week with a blend of in-person and digital instruction, based on parents choice.

Then the start date was pushed back to Aug. 12, but still with a blend of in-person and digital instruction, before school system announced it would be an all digital start to the school year. Now, the plan is to start out all digital and move toward the blend originally envisioned in less than a month.

“Student and staff safety will be the paramount factor in determining the pace at which we will move,” Wilbanks said. “We plan to begin small, bringing in a limited number of grade levels at first, then adding more grades on a staggered basis.

“As we have done throughout the past months, we will rely on guidance from health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Gwinnett County Department of Public Health, as well as the Georgia Department of Education, in making that determination.”

Under a “best case scenario,” starting Aug. 26, kindergartners, first-graders, sixth-graders, ninth-graders and all self-contained special education classes will be offered in-person as well as digitally based on the parents choice.

Starting Sept. 2, second-graders, third-graders, seventh-graders and 10th-graders will be allowed to return to schools for in-person instruction.

And finally, all remaining students whose parents opted for in-person instruction will be allowed to return to school on Sept. 9.

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“Adjustments to the dates and the grade levels listed may be necessary based on the still-fluid COVID-19 situation in Gwinnett County,” Wilbanks said. “Regardless of the timeline, we will monitor the local conditions on a regular basis, and with guidance from our health partners, will either slow down the return to school or continue with the plan accordingly.

“Updates to the plan will be communicated promptly and as far in advance as possible so families and employees have time to prepare. At all times, extensive protective measures will be in place to sanitize our facilities, maintain social distance to the fullest extent possible, and make the return to school safe for children and adults.”

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

(23) comments

Fsfwa93

You all are missing the biggest point of all and it has to do with Sports. Now the State pushed back football season to September. If you notice the dates then you will see that kids who are the in person choice will be back in person just in time for the start of football season. Football is huge in Georgia, they been practicing for weeks, some players are popping positive (like the whole team in Milton GA) but they continue on. Gwinnett is the largest school system in Georgia. If Gwinnett cant have some in person students then Football and other Fall Sports will have to cancel like we did in Spring. If the largest school system in the state does not have its fall sports running then all the other districts that are in person school will not have enough teams to play and then the whole thing gets shut down again. If you think Gwinnett doesn't play outside of the Metro Atlanta area then you don't know the sports. The schools are in AA, AAA,4 A, 6A, etc for Conferences and they are set up by State, not by the Counties. So in essence, Gwinnett is huge in sports and it would be a ripple effect throughout the state if the fall sports were forced to cancel..

COVIDRN

Mr. Wilbanks - what a foolish and reckless decision you have made to send children and teachers back into the classroom!!! They will be like "lambs to the slaughter"!!! It's clear that GCPS officials have their heads buried in the sand or up their yoo-hoos when it comes to regard for human lives. COVID is a highly contagious airborne virus and doesn't play favorites. You are igniting a COVID wildfire by allowing in class instruction to resume. This virus kills!! Why are you playing Russian roulette with students and teachers? Are you ready to supply your teachers/students with PAPRS, n95s, face shields, gowns, and gloves when they sit in a room together cause that's what they will need to be wearing all day long to prevent COVID spread. Danger, Danger ahead for GCPS!!!

natecollins999

I hope the teachers stay home collectively. They don't deserve to be treated like this in a middle of a global pandemic. If you want in-person classes, they should be held at J. Alvin Wilbanks office. He can keep his mask off.

Questtofind

Amen, Nate!

JohnnyJ

How many teachers went on vacation this summer? Many. How many got to the grocery store a few times a week? Most. It's time to get back to work!

To all the teachers, the citizens vote for school board members. The school board picks a superintendent to run day to day operations. The citizens (who are your ultimate bosses) have voted to send their kids back. You are not in charge and you do not dictate how things are run in the schools. If you don't like it then find another job. No one made you all become teachers.

Questtofind

Maybe you should put all that energy to use and volunteer in a school-then you might actually know something close to what is actually going on in a school!

CSFiles

Teachers did not sign up to be first responders or babysitters for those parents that don't care if their kids get infected.

natecollins999

They don't deserve this at all. You're just selfish because you want a daycare for your kids. They wanted to be teacher, not to teach in the middle of a global pandemic that could get some of them killed.

Questtofind

It is way past time for Mr. Wilbanks to move to his easy chair. He has shown himself completely incapable of running Little House in the Prairie ‘s schoolhouse, much less Gwinnett County Public Schools.

sullivanjc

See what he did there? Committed to precisely zip while making it appear as if he was making accommodations. In truth, they can still stay all digital or return to in person learning on whatever schedule they decide. Nothing has really changed there.

CSFiles

Except teachers are still at extreme risk.

C-NASTY722187313

Thx for helping spread the virus Mr. Wilbanks! When children and teachers die I bet you will still choose schools to remain open! Afterall thats the ‘Merica way from decades past where you work thru the hard stuff!

I like how it says that the dates are subject to change depending on the Covid conditions in Gwinnett.... when Gwinnett is already ranked number one county in the state for the infections! #Science!

CSFiles

Amen.

MarvinGardens

They are listening to the parents, which is good. I imagine this schedule will be pushed back unless cases decline significantly. But it is good to see a plan instead of "digital until further notice."

Questtofind

If you ever worked in a school you would know that parents are not the best litmus test for what is best. Period.

Govols56

It’s a virus. The numbers will change. If you don’t want your kids in school then don’t send them. Give people a choice. There is not a right answer for all. But we now have a choice. If you want them to go then send them.. if you want them home then keep them home.

CSFiles

Except the teachers are still at extreme risk. They are not first responders.

CSFiles

Forget the conspiracy theories. Teachers and students are in danger and the numbers are increasing exponentially.

crobin7028

If you go to GA Dept. of Public Health you will see the numbers are actually dropping.

John tuttle

GA Dept of Health numbers are tainted. AS your hero would say, "FAKE NEWS!"

CSFiles

Where did you read that? Mask mandates have slowed the increase but the numbers are way up. This is when we see daily increases in the thousands.

Govols56

Why are they endanger now. Anymore than all these teachers at the beach or at parties? No. Amazing how I see teachers bitching and complaining and then they are at the beach.. same with parents. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either you are scared and stay home or you’re not and you go to the beach. Come on now. Like the teacher on the news saying she quit her job and tried to get unemployment but yet she is willing to have a daycare at her house and collect money??? Give the people an option.

CSFiles

This will end quickly and badly.

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