HCS addresses latest COVID-19 numbers

Henry County Schools logo in purple on white background

Henry County Schools held their monthly board meeting on Monday, December 14. At the start of the meeting, Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis addressed concerns heard from community members about the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

Henry County has a cumulative total of 8,928 cases of COVID-19. Within the last two weeks, 529 cases per 100,000 people were reported.

The 14-day new cases per 100,000 persons rate exceeds the 400 cases benchmark Henry County Schools set in August. The 400 cases threshold was one benchmark to consider before opening in-person learning or, as it relates now, to consider moving back to virtual learning. The 14-day rate was 374 cases on December 7 before increasing to 529 on December 14.

Although the 14-day rate now exceeds its goal threshold, no one metric automatically results in action by the school system. Dr. Davis stated the data is continuously reviewed not only by district leadership but also with the Georgia Department of Public Health. The decision to close on-campus learning across the district, if necessary, would be made either on the guidance of DPH or an executive order.

COVID-19 cases in Henry County Schools

Seventy-six confirmed positive COVID-19 cases have been reported on a school campus as of December 14. Approximately 17,000 students and 5,000 staff members attend on-campus learning.

If a positive COVID-19 case occurs, then district and school leadership conduct a close contact investigation. The investigation includes reviewing classroom and bus seating charts. Staff evaluate close contacts for two days prior to the start of symptoms, or for asymptotic individuals, for two days prior to the test. School personnel then contact those affected by the close contact before sending school-wide communication to staff and parents.

Related: Henry County opened mobile testing sites at county parks. Testing is available on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at select locations.

School Calendar Adjustments

In addition to COVID updates, the board of education approved adjustments to the 2020–2021 school calendar. The adjustments change the start date of the second semester and provide additional teacher planning days throughout the semester.

The second semester will now start on Monday, January 11, providing three extra days for teacher planning. Teachers requested the additional time in dialogue with board members and district leadership.

The board added one teacher planning day per month between January and April. The dates are January 29, February 12, March 12, and April 23. Students will not report to school on these days.

Board member Pam Nutt emphasized the district and schools schedule no meetings or trainings on the planning days. She commented the teachers need the time solely for planning classroom instruction. Board member Sophe Pope added “although it is not customary to adjust the calendar in the middle of the school year, there is absolutely nothing customary about this school year.”

Finally, no changes occurred to the end of the school year on Wednesday, May 26.

Correction: this article previously stated 23,000 students were attending on-campus learning. That number has been corrected.

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Clayton Carte is the founder and owner of Moving Henry Forward Community News. The website provides local news coverage in Henry County, Georgia.