Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Oconee County Schools Announces COVID-19 Protocols For New School Year

***Masks, Vaccinations Not Required***

Oconee County Schools will open on Aug. 4 with all in-person instruction.

As was the case last year, masks will not be required, but those students who choose to wear a mask are “welcome to do so.”

COVID-19 vaccinations also are not required for employees or students.

As in the past, school administrators will send a notice to parents of students informing them if a student in the classroom tests positive for COVID-19.

Positive cases will be reported to the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Public Health, rather than Oconee County Schools, will be responsible for contact tracing.

The Department of Public Health, rather than Oconee County Schools, also will notify those who need to quarantine.

The school system will follow Georgia Department of Public Health guidelines stating that students and staff diagnosed with COVID-19 should stay at home for 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

These are the protocols spelled out by school administrators at the regular meeting of the Board of Education on July 19 and in an email message from Superintendent Jason Branch to parents on July 22.

Superintendent And Staff Reports

Superintendent Branch, anticipating the announcements of his staff in his report to the Board at the beginning of the meeting, said “We look forward to welcoming all of our students back in person and all of our staff and working to have a very productive and normal year.”

Branch With Vice Chair Kim Argo

Claire Buck, chief academics officer, later confirmed for the Board that all students are expected to have in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year.

During the last academic year, parents could choose between in-person and remote instruction.

Buck said that Georgia Virtual School will be available as on on-line platform for grades six to12.

“That is the case every year,” she said, “and the availability of these courses is subject to the availability of personnel to be able to supervise students on that online platform.”

The Georgia Virtual School is a program of the Georgia Department of Education's Office of Teaching and Learning.

Vaccination Details From LeDuff

Dallas LeDuff, director of Student Services for Oconee County Schools, said he “could not share individual medical information from our staff about the level of vaccination” for COVID-19.

He said say he was "happy to report that, through our partnerships with the Oconee Health Department and Piedmont Athens Regional last spring, we're aware of between 75 and 80 percent of our district staff that was vaccinated,” he said.

“Obviously I would guess that more people were vaccinated throughout the summer as they got more information,” he said.

LeDuff said Oconee County Schools has partnered with the Oconee Health Department to provide back-to-school immunizations, including for COVID-19, for students.

The Oconee County Health Department, 1060 Experiment Station Road, Watkinsville, has appointments available Monday through Friday plus on Aug. 7 and on Sept. 4 for all vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccinations currently are available for those 12 years old and older.

“COVID-19 vaccinations are not required for employees or students, but remain available and accessible,” Branch said in his email message to parents.

LeDuff On Reporting Protocols

LeDuff said Oconee County Schools will continue to report positive cases of COVID-19 to the Georgia Department of Public Health “and assist them in their contact tracing efforts.”

LeDuff With Board Members Tim Burgess
And Michael Ransom
School administrators will send a letter to the classrooms to notify parents and staff if there was a positive case in their classroom, he said.

“Staff, students, and visitors are not required, but may choose, to wear masks while on Oconee County Schools properties,” LeDuff said.

LeDuff said “enhanced cleaning procedures will remain in place in schools and on buses. In addition, classrooms will continue to be equipped with hand sanitizer stations.”

“Students will receive quarantine notifications directly from the Department of Public Health, LeDuff said.

Vaccinated students will not need to quarantine if they have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for the virus, LeDuff said.

LeDuff said that the Department of Public Health has the ability to verify vaccinations through its database.

Other Action

In other action at the Board meeting on July 19, the Board approved the purchase of four buses from Thomas-Peach State Freightliner in Jefferson for a total cost of $387,980, or $96,995 per bus.

These purchases will be funded through a State Grant, federal COVID-19 relief funds, and the local Education Local Option Sales Tax.

The Board also approved a $89,434 bid from Creative Courts of Flowery Branch for the resurfacing of the eight tennis courts at Oconee County High School and the 10 courts at North Oconee High School.

This work will be funded through Education Local Option Sales Tax revenue.

Brock Toole, chief operations officer for the schools, said work on the courts will be completed by the end of October.

Liz Harlow, interim chief financial officer for Oconee County Schools, told the Board that revenue in the just-completed Fiscal Year 2021 will be $5.8 million more than anticipated.

The growth is due to a student enrollment increase, increased local tax revenue, and partial restoration of the state austerity cuts, she said. The state funding formula is based on the number of students in the schools.


The video embedded below is for the recording of the July 19 meeting by Oconee County Schools and available on the school’s YouTube channel.

Branch's report is at 3:36 in the video.

Buck spoke at 6:42.

LeDuff began his report at 27:15 in the video.

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