Pickens County Schools to Re-open
New criteria in place to help in determining when schools close


Pickens County Schools to Re-open

1/20/2021 ~ by Destini Shope, Director of Community Engagement and Public Relations | Pickens County School District

In-person classes will resume for Pickens County students beginning Monday, January 25, 2021. Pickens Virtual Academy (PVA) students will continue as scheduled. The district will monitor daily staff attendance as it relates to COVID-19 quarantine/ isolation or other significant health outbreaks (flu, stomach virus, etc.) to help determine whether or not a school will be open for in-person learning or whether students will be in distance learning mode. If there is a need to consider closing due to student absences, guidance will be provided to us from our local and state healthcare partners.

The chart pictured outlines key information that we will utilize moving forward, to determine whether our schools can open. We will be posting updates to this information on the district webpage by 8:30 a.m. each school day.

When any of our school or department absences for staff reach the following percentages, we will transition to distance learning:

Harmony 20%
Hill City 20%
Tate 20%
Jasper Middle 25%
Pickens Jr. High 25%
Pickens High 20%
Northstar 55%
Transportation 10%
Food Service 28%

If a younger child is required to quarantine due to exposure to someone who is positive with COVID-19, one older sibling will be allowed to transition to distance learning on the itsLearning platform in order to help with supervising the younger child at home so the parent(s) can continue to work. When choosing a sibling to be at home to supervise, we encourage parents to choose a sibling that meets the Child Supervision criteria provided by the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services. Those guidelines state, “Children (13) thirteen years and older, who are at an adequate level of maturity, may be left alone and may perform the role of babysitter, as authorized by the parent, for up to twelve hours.” When making a COVID report to the school, parents should provide the name, school, and grade level of the older sibling who will be providing supervision.

The older student’s attendance will not be penalized during this time; however, learning expectations and assignment due dates will continue to be in place and grades for assignments will count.

If 3 or more schools close/transition to distance learning, all in-person classes will move to distance learning on the itsLearning platform. PVA students will continue instruction with Pearson Connexus. It is important for our families to continue sharing the responsibility of monitoring symptoms for their children, and notifying their school if symptoms of illness appear or if there has been an exposure to a positive COVID case or of a suspected positive case. COVID-19 information and case counts can be found under the COVID section on our district webpage.

We will continue to work closely with our local and state healthcare partners as we strive to keep our students and staff healthy, safe, and in school. In order for us to keep schools open, we must all work together to help minimize the spread of the virus which includes wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining distance between you and others as much as possible. As we return to in-person learning, students are strongly encouraged to wear masks during transitions or during times when social distancing is not feasible.

We understand the burden that school closures place on families and appreciate your continued support as we work to do what is in the best interest of all students. It is our goal to maintain in-person learning when possible because that is how students learn best. We also want our students to be able to enjoy extra-curricular activities and have safety protocols in place to allow those


UPDATE 1/12/21: Monday, January 18, 2021, is a holiday for students and staff in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. On Tuesday, January 19, 2021, students enrolled in traditional school will continue distance learning using the itslearning platform and students enrolled in Pickens Virtual Academy will continue working on Pearson Con nexus. We will announce school plans for the week of January 25, 2021, no later than next Thursday, January 21, 2021.

We understand that any alternative learning model other than face-to-face may create challenges for some of our families. As of this morning, our numbers continue to trend upward within our school community where we currently have 114 in quarantine or isolation. While this number is lower than it has been during the past few weeks, we believe these numbers are a direct result of implementing distance learning. While the case numbers are important, consideration of additional factors affecting our community are also key to our decisions such as availability of emergency or critical care services in our local and nearby communities. In order to responsibly return students to our building, we must be able to provide all needed services without interruption including instruction, transportation, and food service.

In Pickens County, we currently have a positivity rate of 28.2% over the last 14 days with 1,003 positive test results reported through the Department of Public Health ELR system. In fact, 79.9% of Georgia's 159 counties are in the red zone for positivity classification. If you would like additional information about surrounding counties, visit the DPH website at www.dph.georgia.gov.

Please continue to follow the learning expectations communicated by your child's teacher and school principal. As mentioned previously, we are aware that alternative learning models pose some challenges for our families. Work with your child's teacher or school administrator if you have any type of educational or support needs. They are more than willing to work with you.
More information will be forthcoming regarding meal service for families. Please continue to report COVID exposure and illnesses to your child's school during this time. Thank you for your continued support as we work together for our children.


UPDATE 1/8/21: Beginning Monday, January 11, 2021, students enrolled in traditional school will begin distance learning using the itsLearning platform. Students enrolled in Pickens Virtual Academy with Pearson Connexus will begin classes the same day. If you have questions, please email your child’s teacher before Friday afternoon so you can get answers before Monday morning.

As mentioned previously, we will announce school plans for the week of January 18, 2021, no later than next Thursday. We are continuing to monitor our COVID numbers within the school community as well as those in the community at-large. We appreciate your ongoing support.


Meals available on Monday (Jan. 11) & Wednesday (Jan. 13)

Pickens County School Nutrition will be serving meals as follows next week:

When can I pick-up meals?
• Monday – enough meals will be provided for Monday and Tuesday
• Wednesday – enough meals will be provided for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday

Where can I pick-up meals?
• Meals can be picked-up at all schools between 11:15 AM and Noon on Monday
and Wednesday only
Harmony – under the covered area where car riders are dropped off/picked up
Hill City – at the curb next to the kitchen/gym entrance before covered area
Tate – in the parking lot in front of the cafeteria building
Jasper Middle – at the back of the school near the media center, where buses
Pickens Jr. High – at the bus drop off parking lot facing Refuge Road
Pickens High – at the loading dock are near the softball/baseball complex
• Meals can be picked up at any of the 4 designated stops between 11:15 and Noon on
Monday and Wednesday only
~ Hinton Milling (Hwy 53 West)
~ Old Twin Tanks (Hwy 53 West & Henderson Mtn. Road)
~ Mountainside Manor Apts (inside the gate at the park area)
~ Foothills IGA (Hwy 53 East/Foothills Parkway)
• Any of the other stops listed on the attached document

Do I have to pick-up at my child’s school?
No, you can pick-up at any location.

Who can get meals?
Any child, 0-18, may have free meals. Children do not have to be with the adult picking-up meals.

What if I cannot come to get the meals for my child(ren)?
You can send an email to beththompson@pickenscountyschools.org by 9:00 AM on Monday and Wednesday, and arrangements will be made to help you.


UPDATE 1/4/21: Extracurricular Activities Will Be Allowed

8 buses out in circulation on Jan. 5, 2021to deliver one day of meals. In addition to the buses, we will offer curbside meals at each school from 11:15 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Meals are available at no cost to all children 18 and younger. SCHEDULE

After much consideration, it has been determined that all Pickens County School District extracurricular activities will be allowed to continue as planned. This decision was made after careful consideration was given to the safety, health and well-being of all parties involved. After discussions with administrators, coaches, central office personnel and local healthcare officials, we have developed a plan that we believe will allow for hosting of all school-sponsored events to be done in a safe manner.

In order to host these events on our campus, it will be necessary to implement the following mitigation strategies:

• Spectators must wear a mask or face shield at all times while inside a Pickens County School District facility.
• Social distancing must be practiced when practical.
Capacity at all events on Pickens County campuses will be limited to 25%.
• All participants, coaches and sponsors will be screened prior to participating in any event or practice.

* Failure to comply with these requirements may result in removal from the event or activity.

We ask for your complete cooperation as we continually seek strategies that will allow for our students to participate in these extracurricular activities and events. These students have worked extremely hard to prepare for these events. They need our support and cooperation in order for them to safely participate.

Thank you in advance for doing your part to support our students across all extracurricular and co-curricular activities within the district. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, Mr. Chris Wallace, or Dr. Chad Flatt at ricktownsend@pickenscountyschools.org, chriswallace@pickenscountyschools.org, or chadflatt@pickenscountyschools.org.


Out of an abundance of concern for our families and entire school community, all schools will remain closed the remainder of this week due to several important factors. There will also be no athletic or extra-curricular events this week. The important factors include:

• Health officials anticipate the number of positive cases in our community to continue to rise.
• Area health care providers are in a critical position when it comes to availability to provide service to patients.
• The positivity rate is currently is at 26% for the district; According to CDC indicators, anything above 10% places us in the red zone which is the "Highest risk of transmission in schools."
• We currently have 50 staff members in quarantine/isolation.

Beginning next week, January 11, 2021, traditional students will be expected to participate in distance learning on the itslearning platform. Expectations will be sent out from your child's teacher or school regarding instruction/lessons, daily schedule, teacher availability, support on using the itslearning platform, and other important details to help your child be successful during this time. If your child is enrolled in Pickens Virtual Academy through Pearson Con nexus, courses will begin January 11, 2021, as well. If your child is new to traditional school, teachers/staff will reach out with information/tutoring on how to use the itslearning platform over the next few days.

We will provide more information on meal service over the next couple of days. We will provide updates for the week of January 18, 2021, no later than Thursday, January 14, 2021.

If you have questions or concerns about a specific family situation regarding distance learning, reach out to your child's teacher via email. We will continue to try and provide as much notice as possible; however, as you are aware, this is a constantly changing situation. We appreciate your support and understanding.