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LOA closes doors for school year, maybe

March 20, 2020 - 06:00
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    The car line at Lake Oconee Academy was busy Monday, March 16, as parents picked up their children for what might be the last day of classroom instruction at the school this year. MARK ENGEL/Staff

At noon on Monday, cars with anxious parents lined up on roads leading to Lake Oconee Academy. They were picking up their children for what might be the last time this school year.

In a letter to parents over the weekend, CEO Dr. Otho Tucker announced that, like other school districts, LOA was closing because of the coronavirus and that parents should prepare for the likelihood that it could last through the end of this school year.

Veronica, who was wearing a uniform from a local restaurant, had just picked up her son at LOA. Through her rolled down window she told the Lake Oconee News that it’s a good decision.

“I guess it’s just a precaution,” Veronica said. “Taking care of the kids.”

In another car, Samantha was concerned about how to deal with her 6-year-old daughter probably being at home for the rest of the school year.

“It’s going to be a struggle, for sure,” Samantha said. “We own a business and have to work.”

Last week, while local public schools were announcing their closures, Tucker joined some other charter schools in saying they would stay open. It was only when a possible case of coronavirus was reported in Athens that he decided it was too close to Greene County to take a chance.

In the letter to parents, students were told to show up Monday morning to gather their books and personal belongings. That included cleaning out their lockers.

“So that our cleaning crews can go through and wipe down everything, everywhere,” Tucker told the Lake Oconee News Monday.

Students were also instructed to bring their computers, phones or tablets to class so they could learn how to connect with the school on the internet. They will now be required to take their classes, view recorded lessons or videos online and submit assignments the same way.

“The things that they’ll be using are things that they’re already using as supplemental work in their classroom,” Tucker said. “It will just shift over and be the foundation. As things kept growing last week, we had teachers coming in throughout the day training with our tech director to make sure they are aware of how to post videos and assignments. There will be live class discussions going on.”

The school will loan computers and has already purchased internet access time for those students who need them.

It’s also clear that parents like Veronica and Samantha will need to help make the process work.

“Create a study schedule and space for your child,” Tucker wrote in his letter to parents. “We will do all we can to keep a schedule on our end in the hope it will assist you. It is not our intent for students to sit in front of a computer for eight straight hours. They will need to have study times and breaks just as we do here at school. Our faculty will do its best to create quality instruction and lessons that challenge the students and not piles of ‘busy work’.”

For children under the age of 18 who rely on subsidized meals, the Greene County School System will provide lunch at 11 a.m. Mondays through Fridays at 10 community locations. More information and the list of locations is available on the Greene County School District website - https://www.greene.k12. ga.us/Page/206.

While Tucker says everyone should be prepared for online learning to last through the end of the school year, he really hopes it will not come to that.

“Our goal is to watch this thing as close as we can,” Tucker said. “As the curve starts to go down, we’ll decide when it’s appropriate to get back to school. There’s a lot of things coming up at the end of the year that all students, especially seniors, don’t want to miss.”