BUFORD — At the July 2020 Buford Board of Education meeting, Buford City Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Downs ask the Board for their approval to delay the start of school by one week in order to give staff and parents time to train on the new digital learning platform called Canvas. The new start date will be August 12. This applies to all students regardless of whether they are doing digital or in-person learning.
The school system is still sticking to its plan to offer both digital and in-person learning. Many feared that they would follow Gwinnett County and opt for all digital learning but they decided not to do so. Only 20% of Buford’s student population signed up for digital learning. In recent surveys, 70% of Buford parents indicated that they were ready to send their children back to school on campus.
Dr. Downs and School Board Chairman Phillip Beard explained to a larger than usual audience at the meeting how Buford’s situation is unique and how they are better prepared than some other school systems. Most school systems have had to receive a waiver from the state to have permission to have larger class sizes. Buford is only one of two districts in the entire state that has not had to ask for a waiver meaning Buford has smaller class sizes than other districts in Georgia. With Buford’s expansive facilities and having 20% fewer students on campus, the administration feels confident about the situation.
The schools have been busy preparing for students to come back. Custodians have been hard at work thoroughly sanitizing the buildings, stocking up on cleaning supplies, and assisting in moving desks and other furniture around for social distancing. Staff members are looking into purchasing clear barriers for some areas such as the media center, the front desk area, the cafeteria, and other areas where social distancing isn’t feasible. Some classes may be moved to larger areas, for instance, it could be possible that the chorus classes could be moved to the theatre in the Performing Arts Center.
Dr. Downs went back to the Board to amend the district’s policy on the use of masks by the students. Students who ride the bus must wear a mask however, originally students did not have to wear a mask at the schools. It was only highly recommended. Now the administration has decided that students must wear a mask during times where social distancing is not possible. Kids will be given “mask breaks” throughout the day as it’s a lot to expect a young child to wear a mask for seven hours a day.
Dr. Downs went over the details of what he and the principals had already addressed during the virtual town hall events that were held last week. Those videos are still available on the district’s website and social media.
As the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is constantly evolving, Dr. Downs stresses to parents that the school district’s plans are subject to change and he asks that parents bare with them. He promises that they are working hard to make this as easy and as safe as possible for the students and the staff.