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Employees rise to the occasion
April 13 tentative reopening date for Effingham County schools
Effingham County Schools
The most important thing that we can do right now is make sure that our community is safe.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford

SPRINGFIELD — School employees received excellent grades at the end of Thursday’s Effingham County Board of Education meeting.

After every item on the short agenda was handled, District 5’s Vickie Decker said, “With the changes that we’ve had to make due to this crazy time that we find ourselves in, it’s been amazing to see our teachers completely flip the script. We have kids learning at home”

Decker was referring to the state of emergency brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Schools were closed March 18, forcing students to obtain their lessons online.

Nutritional Services and the Transportation Department also received accolades. They have combined to approximately 1,500 children each day while school is out.

“It’s amazing to watch everyone come together in the way that they have,” Decker said.

Decker’s remarks were applauded by Superintendent Dr. Randy Shearouse, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford and her fellow board members.

“We’ve got some great folks,” Shearouse said. “I know with the lunchroom and bus drivers we’ve had people volunteer to (prepare and deliver meals).”

“It’s what we’re hear for,” said Susan Hartzog, executive director of Human Resources.

Hartzog mentioned that a truck driver making a delivery at Rincon’s Walmart was impressed by the feeding effort. Walmart was one of several food delivery locations in the county.

“He was amazed that the schools  were doing it and they we had such a great response because he could see the line wrapped around the parking lot,” she said. “It speaks a lot for our community. Law enforcement showed up there, too.

“... It was heartwarming.”

“It’s the kind of thing where everybody has to pull together to get everything done and we appreciate what everybody does,” Board Chairman Lamar Allen said. 

After the meeting, Ford answered a few questions about when school might return to normal.

“Whether we are going to have school or not, we will make our decisions based on information we receive from the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and, of course, the Governor’s Office,” he said. “I think the governor will reevaluate the situation next week or at the end of the month and make some recommendations on what he thinks.”

On March 16, Gov. Brian Kemp ordered the closure of all public elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools in Georgia through the end of March. The school district announced Saturday that it has set a tentative return date of April 13.

 “The most important thing that we can do right now is make sure that our community is safe,” Ford said Thursday.

Ford said the pandemic is more difficult to handle than other challenges the district has faced recently.

“With a hurricane, you can monitor it and you know it is coming,” he said. “Then you can prepare and it hits or it doesn’t. Then you assess whatever damage is done and you fix it what you need to fix and get school back open.

“With (the coronavirus), the only way we can control it is, basically, is to quarantine yourself.”

The closure has forced the cancellation of numerous athletic contests and other events. The proms at Effingham County and South Effingham high schools have been  delayed until May 16 and May 9, respectively.

Ford noted that some states have canceled classes for the rest of the year.

“I don’t think that’s the right thing to do because we are so early into this thing,” he said. “I think you have to wait and make that decision at the latest possible time because, again, if there is a way for us to get back into school and our community is safe, that’s what we want to do. We want to educate students but we don’t want to do it in an arena that is unsafe for kids.

“We don’t have to make that decision today.”