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Schools, colleges switch to online learning amid COVID-19 concerns

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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused universities, schools and other educational outlets to shutdown and switch to online nationwide, and Georgia is no different.

On Monday, March 16, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order closing all public schools and colleges, while allowing for online learning, starting Wednesday, March 18.

By Tuesday, however, all schools and colleges were already shut down for in-person learning.

Georgia College and State University

Starting on Friday, Georgia College was the first to announce their closure.

Initially, the college switched to online learning through the end of March. Spring Break was already scheduled for this week. By Monday afternoon, however the University System of Georgia made the decision to make all 26 of its institutions switch to online only for the remainder of the semester.

“Students are not allowed to return to campus until the receive permission from their institution, which will be forthcoming soon,” according to the USG release.

Residence halls are closed with few exceptions given to students unable to return home and not able to find housing elsewhere. Meanwhile, USG is also providing guidance regarding refunds for services.

“In the end, we want to ensure that our faculty, staff and students are safe; that we do our part to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in Georgia; and that we fulfill our mission to graduate our students even in the face of these challenging times,” the release said.

On Tuesday, the University of Georgia and Georgia Southern University both announced they would not hold in-person spring commencements. By press time, no decision had been made regarding a ceremony at Georgia College.

Georgia Military College

On Friday evening, Georgia Military College made the announcement that all 14 of its campuses, as well as the Preparatory School would be going to online learning.

The decision to move the prep school to online learning came after President Donald Trump declared a National Emergency over COVID-19, according to a release from GMC. Students attended classes on Monday, March 16, where instruction was given to students throughout the day about assignments that needed to be completed throughout the remote learning period. The Prep School, according to the release is using Plus Portal, email and the website as a means of communication.

At press time, remote learning is to take place through Friday March 27, while spring break will take place from Monday, March 30 through Friday, April 3. School is scheduled to physically resume on campus Monday, April 6.

Also on Friday, GMC announced all 14 of its college campuses would be online only through March 31.

“We continue to support our students to the best of our ability, and to ensure their success,” according to a March 17 release. “We are implementing social distancing to minimize the overall presence of Coronavirus on all GMC campuses.”

For information on GMC’s protocols for Coronavirus, visit current-students/coronavirus-info.cms for the latest information. This link is updated daily. By press time, GMC did not opt to close for the remainder of the semester. The junior college is not a member of the USG.

Central Georgia Technical College

The technical school in Milledgeville, CGTC, opted to go to remote learning through March 27 on Friday, March 13.

Right now, the CGTC campuses and centers are operating with restricted access to students and public, based on the guidance of the Governor’s office.

“Students who are completing courses online still have access to essential services,” according to CGTC’s website. “If you need assistance with courses, please contact your instructor or advisor directly via email.”

Right now, all instruction has been suspended on campus, but summer and fall semester advisement and registration remain open to students. Yesterday, all testing services at CGTC’s Milledgeville, Macon and Warner Robins campuses have been suspended through March 31. In addition, GED testing has been suspended and the child development center has been closed.

Spring Break is scheduled from March 30 to April 3 and is set to continue as scheduled.

Baldwin County School District

On Monday, March 16, the Baldwin County Board of education held a called meeting to discuss online learning.

The board, in the near-45 minute meeting opted to switch to online learning through the end of the month in accordance with Governor Kemp’s guidelines. The following week would be spring break, meaning students would return to campus on April 6.

Dr. Noris Price, Superintendent of the school system, gave the board an update on how online learning would go, as well as how they would handle providing food to students in need and keeping their employees working.

“I feel really good about where we are,” Price said. “The next two and a half weeks I don’t know what will happen, but I know we will be able to get through whatever comes our way.”

Price said approximately 1,000 students or 20 percent of the student body, stayed home on Monday due to concerns of COVID-19. Those absences will be considered excused.

John Milledge Academy

On Saturday, March 14, headmaster Jessica Jones updated John Milledge parents and students on the situation.

Much like GMC and Baldwin County Schools, JMA students attended school on Monday where teachers sent students home with materials for distance learning. All school events were suspended and the front gate locked.

“For liability reasons, our JM family cannot be on campus during this time,” Jones wrote. “We hope to resume activities on a sanitized campus on April 6. If anything changes we will let you know via text and email.”

In addition, Jones encouraged families to postpone non-essential travel and encouraged families returning from a CDC-designated level 2 or 3 country to follow guidelines for a 14-day self-quarantine.

“My hope for all of us is that, despite these extraordinary circumstances, we do not lose sight of the abundant love and joy that surrounds us daily,” she wrote. “Let us continue to share these gifts with one another from afar.”