County schools COVID outlook

Blount Countians all had high hopes for the new year, especially regarding COVID-19. As most of us perused social media and talked with friends and family, the health and wellness of our county’s children remained top priority as school officials were preparing for their return to school.

Either remotely or in-person, everyone knew that Blount County and Oneonta City schools had the challenge of creating a safe, yet effective learning environment. To aid in these efforts, the State of Alabama provided funds for enhanced safety measures, PPE, sanitation, and technology.

The Blount Countian met with Superintendent Rodney Green to see how Blount County schools, which are now in the second semester of the 2020–2021 school year, are faring with the help of the new round of CARES Act money.

Green first mentioned how proud he was of all the faculty, staff, and administration for the hard work and dedication they’ve shown during this challenging time. “It’s really a team effort,” he said, “That’s what we tried to preach from the beginning of the school year.”

He also made no pretense about this being the most challenging school year Blount County has ever faced due to the unprecedented nature of the circumstances. However, Green emphatically said it’s definitely been the most rewarding.

Despite all of the chaos, Blount County could offer sports, a senior-only prom, and other events, all done with the cooperation of employees and parents. Green also praised the Blount County Board of Education for their efforts in making the 2020- 2021 school year the best it can possibly be.

“The board has been so supportive of our teachers this year with more professional development days at the beginning of the year, creating Mondays as remote days to help with the stress of serving two different populations, and helping teachers who are sick with COVID-19.”

In December, the board extended its COVID sick leave policy through the end of this school year.

Green explained that with CARES Act funds all schools were able to purchase more PPE, sanitation materials, and learning aids. Blount County schools have been able to provide students with Chromebooks and free Wi-Fi on buses and in school parking lots for those who are both remote and blended.

One of the main concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic is how to combat learning loss, which Green said “is inevitable.” Interruptions will cause learning loss. There have been many and may be more, but schools throughout Blount County are doing the best they can to make school as normal as possible.

When asked what BCS could have done better in hindsight, Green said, “I don’t think we could have done anything to make education better, but I wish our teachers had more time with Schoology. I hated to throw that on the teachers, but we didn’t have a choice.”

As far as health and safety are concerned, Green praised his school nursing staff. “Barbara Robertson and her team of nurses have worked so hard to keep us healthy, to quarantine people when they need to be, and communicate with families. I’m very proud of their efforts.”

Blount County’s schools are working hard to make the second semester the best it can be amid an ongoing pandemic. If anything can be taken away from how well the schools have managed, it’s teamwork. Parents, employees, and community members have come together to put in the work in takes in times like these.