July 20, 2020, Lawrenceville – CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks announced that Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) will open the 2020-21 school year on August 12 with all students receiving digital instruction. Although the district had planned to begin with both in-person and digital instruction, the current COVID-19 situation required a change in those plans.
“There is no replacement for face-to-face instruction, and that was our preferred model for starting the school year,” said Superintendent Wilbanks. “With that in mind, we offered parents an option between in-person and digital instruction in order to be responsive to their wishes for their children. However, out of an abundance of concern for our students, families, and employees, we made a very difficult decision based on the increasing number of COVID-19 cases we are seeing in our county, as well as the concerns that have been expressed by our teachers, parents, and others in the community.”
GCPS leaders will continue to gather information from health officials and monitor the still-fluid COVID-19 situation in Gwinnett County. That information will help determine when the district can safely open for in-person instruction.
During the spring and summer, school system staff have worked diligently to improve the digital learning experience for students. Summer staff development has focused primarily on effective teaching in a digital environment. Content specialists created digital lessons and provided instructional resources to help teachers better serve students.
Digital instruction this fall will look very different than it did in the spring. Expectations for teachers and students will be consistent with those for in-person instruction. The digital school day will follow a daily schedule. School attendance will be expected and documented. And, students will receive grades and will take assessments to measure their learning.
Teachers will report to their schools to deliver their digital lessons, participate in staff development, and collaborate with their fellow teachers to make digital instruction more effective for their students. For some employees, reporting to school may be difficult for a number of reasons. Principals will work with the staff members at their school to address individual concerns and make accommodations where possible. Those who are allowed to work from home will be expected to come to the school periodically to work with other school staff and leaders.
With the move to 100% digital learning, GCPS leaders continue to address the challenges that we know exist in terms of student access to devices and reliable internet connections. The district will check out Chromebooks and internet hotspots to students, based on need, to ensure equitable access to quality digital learning.
“This is not the beginning of the school year we had hoped for; however, it was a possibility we planned for, knowing that keeping students and staff safe had to be a priority,” said Mr. Wilbanks. “We are confident we can do digital learning well, thanks to the quality teachers and leaders we have in this district, the comprehensive preparation over the last four months, and our steadfast commitment to do what’s best for Gwinnett students.”
Details for the 2020-21 school year will continue to be shared on the district website and in SchoolMessenger updates, including plans for a return to in-school instruction once that is possible.