COVID-19 Prompts School Closures

Henry County Schools temporarily move to a non-traditional learning platform.

Students+leave+school+and+will+not+return+until+April+1%2C+2020.+Dr.+Mary+Elizabeth+Davis+declared+that+all+schools+would+be+shut+down+for+two+weeks+for+cleaning+and+social+distancing.

Jackson Weems

Students leave school and will not return until April 1, 2020. Dr. Mary Elizabeth Davis declared that all schools would be shut down for two weeks for cleaning and social distancing.

By Maria Adams, Ola High School

Henry County Schools have closed due to COVID-19, but students will continue to learn from home. In a speech on March 12, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp suggested that schools close for two weeks to practice social distancing, a move intended to limit the transmission of the coronavirus. To comply with the governor’s request, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Davis, Henry County Superintendent, announced that Henry County Schools would close after business hours the following day and move to a remote learning platform effective March 16, 2020, for a minimum of two weeks.

On March 13, 2020, as students prepared to leave, David Shedd, Ola High principal, addressed the student body during the afternoon announcements.

Maria Adams
Every Henry County teacher has a remote learning page that informs parents and students about how to access the information for the class. Parents received information from other the school district and school.

“Students, this is not a vacation from school, but a different way of doing school,” Shedd said.

Remote learning allows students to continue their education without extending the school year or canceling spring break. Teachers are working to provide approximately two hours of classwork activities a day. Students can contact their teachers, who have set aside roughly three business hours a day, through Google Meets, Google Classroom, Remind 101, or email.

“We are still navigating this new reality and know that modifications to our approaches to learning may be necessary. We will communicate all major changes via Infinite Campus and our school’s website,” Shedd said.

Teachers adapt to this new style of teaching in different ways. They want their students to receive the same level of education even if it comes in a different format.

“My biggest compromise has simply been not having the ability to interact with the students the way I normally do. I’ve had to resort to sending a Remind message with my pun of the day and pretend I can hear everyone laughing,” Justin Sumner, US history teacher, said.

Besides affecting students’ academics, the break will also reinforce Generation Z interacting through social media and online. When schools are closed, it means all school-related activities are also canceled or postponed.

“All Henry County Schools and offices are closed for the next two weeks and potentially longer because of the coronavirus in our county, state and nation. This also means that all extracurricular activities, field trips, athletic events, and practices are canceled until schools reopen,” Shedd said.

Jackson Weems
Karen Lawler, AP human geography teacher, prepares for remote learning. She created a remote learning page that can be accessed here, https://schoolwires.henry.k12.ga.us/Page/129432.

Students look forward to their time away from school, but they understand that it might be more challenging than it appears. A new learning platform can mean that students will face obstacles they do not encounter in the traditional classroom. Teachers are ready to help students that struggle to adjust.

“Providing the necessary help to struggling students will be difficult, nothing can truly replace the in-person one-on-one time that some students need to understand the content. To combat these issues we must ensure that students are not overwhelmed by the workload… We teach the standard or skill in the most concise way possible,” Sumner said.

On March 16, 2020, Governor Kemp amended his recommendation and declared that all public Georgia schools, including the University System of Georgia, must be closed March 18th to the 31st. Henry County Schools District continues to gather information about the impact of the coronavirus in our area, but it is too soon to announce a return date for students.

This story was originally published on Hoof Print on March 18, 2020.