COVID, not weather, leads to distance learning in Murray

Business
options

Murray County schools will begin transitioning some students into distance learning. Middle schools and high schools will begin distance learning beginning Dec. 3. Elementary students will begin Dec. 17 unless the move is required earlier due COVID-19.

Face-to-face learning will begin Jan. 5, 2021.

Wi-Fi access

The system will have buses set up across the county with free Wi-Fi. The buses will be available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

See the access points here.

Lunch Pick-up

Breakfast and Lunch meals will be available every day. Meals can be picked up at the following locations and times. Please remember these meals are free and available to any child 0-18. Meals will be available at the following places and times:

  • Wi-Fi Hot Spot buses: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Every Elementary School (kitchen door entrance): 10 a.m. -10:30 a.m.
  • Murray and North Murray High: 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
  • Spring Place Mobile Home Park: 11 a.m. -1 p.m.

Credit card policy from 2016 gets new life

Board of Education, News
credit card policy
credit card policy

Photo by Susan Kirkland

Superintendent Steven Laughridge was awarded the Financial Innovator of the Year by the Georgia Association of School Business Officers.

Credit Card Policy

Kathy Smith, Finance Director, talked to the Murray County Board of Education about a credit card policy they adopted in 2016 and her plans to put it to use.

“I don’t know how much, if ever it’s been used,” she told the board.

She said the pandemic showed a need to use the credit card policy in some capacity. It allowed credit cards to be issued to employees for school purchases. Superintendent Steven Loughridge said that while the credit card policy has been in placed, it just didn’t gain traction and eventually was forgotten.

“We’ve had several employees who needed to make purchases that required a card because the vendor would not take a check,” Smith said.

She told the board that she wanted to start low and slow-a low limit and with only a few having a card. Card balances are paid in full each month so no interest accrues. The goal would be to at least have all principals to have a card and then gradually expand.

“We won’t just be issuing cards to whoever,” she said, adding employees will have paperwork to sign before receiving the cards.

“We’re going to work out all the kinks, have a low limit, I’ll be the administrator of the cards. I’ll reconcile the statements, I’m not afraid of it.”

Smith said she’d start the process, get bids and keep the board up-to-date on progress.

“I see a need for it. It’s relevant for the school district,” she said. “Most schools and entities use them.”

credit card policy

Photo by Susan Kirkland
Kathy Smith talks to the board about a using a credit card policy they approved in 2016.

Operation Effectiveness

The board voted to declare several desks as surplus. The desks were donated by Mohawk Industries and while the system used several, some were not used. The desk will be donated to the crisis center which is in the process of being set up.

 SPL OST Outline

The board adopted a resolution to seek another Special Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, for $25,500,000 in order to fund capital outlay projects in order to get the referendum on the ballot on March 16.

Those projects include:

  • Renovations and improvements to Murray County High School, including athletic facilities.
  • Improvements and equipment for Gladden Middle School.
  • Renovations, improvements, and equipping Northwest Elementary School.
  • Technology upgrades and equipment.
  • Purchases of new buses.
  • Reroofing and renovations to the Enrollment Center Complex including gym at old Murray County High School.
  • System-wide renovations and improvements and adding to, remodeling, renovating, improving and equipping existing educational buildings, properties and facilities of the school district, and acquiring any property, both real and personal, and necessary equipment.

Government investment tabulation

Smith also pointed out an addition to the financial statements.

“We have deposits out of the general fund into a local government investment pool,” she said.

The government investment pool can get up to two-percent interest and just started.

credit card policy

Kathy Smith is the new finance director for Murray County Schools

“The deposit that has gone in this week will sit there until payroll is run. You’ll start seeing the deposits and interest,” she said.

Smith said they are millions in the pool and each entity gets a return on their investment.

Financial Innovator of the Year

Loughridge was presented with the Financial Innovator of the Year award from the Georgia Association of School Business Officials. Smith received the award in his place at the GASBO meeting.

“I ran into so m any people who said ‘what a great, great superintendent you work for. We think he’s a great man,'” Smith recounted. “That’s the reputation this district has and he has.”

Lexia update

Rachelle Terry updated the board on the use of the Lexia program for students who are English learners.

“We are in the top three-percent for student usage in the state,” she said. “Our English learners outpaced many other in the state whe we did high stakes testing last year.”

Although the program is online, it is teacher led and directed. The program assesses students at the beginning of the year and are placed where they need to be. If they need help, there are supports built in. The program was purchased with Title 3 funding.

“We have to have evidenced based programs and this one was highly recommended.” she said.

Mr. Gladden can remain at GMS

The school board made the decision to allow an out-of-district student finish out his eighth-grade year at his school after his mother requested it at last week’s meeting. Rhonda Gable, mother of the student, said they recently moved out of district but wanted her son to finish out the year at GMS. She said her son was a straight A student, a football player, and voted Mr. Gladden.

 

Virtual school contracts due by Dec. 4 in Murray County Schools

Board of Education, Business, News
virtual school

Virtual School

virtual school

Photo by Susan Kirkland
Brice Holcomb talks to the board about SPLOST.

Students wishing to attend or continue attending the Murray Virtual School need to fill out a commitment form by December 4. School administration said this was a second contract to stay in virtual school for the remainder of the school year. Orientation is every Monday night and Friday afternoon.

Murray County’s online learning for traditional students during unplanned breaks, such as when Tropical Storm Zeta closed school systems across the Northwest Georgia, is working pretty smoothly, according to Adriane Ellis, instructional technology specialist.

On Oct. 30, known as “Virtual Friday,” she said 3,790 assignments were posted to Google classroom, 1,539 students participated in classes, and Google Meet showed 2,582 users both students and teachers.

According to survey results, 72.5-percent of the 834 response indicated they were able to access help as needed and 85.3-percent said they did not have any tech issues.

ESPLOST

Brice Holcomb explained how to word the ESPLOST in order to give the board flexibility on how to sell the debt so you get the lowest rate and to protect the school system from getting all the money prior to the expiration of the ESPLOST.

“We set the maximum amount you can collect as $25.5 million. We by no means expect you to get that amount, but if you reach the max before the 60-months, you can no longer levy the tax.”

GET THE LATEST MURRAY COUNTY COVID-19 NUMBERS

Parent concerns

virtual school

Photo by Susan Kirkland
Rhonda Gable, mother of a Gladden Middle School student, requests the board to allow her son to finish his 8th grade year at the school after the family moved out of district.

The board heard from one mother requesting her son be allowed to finish out the school year in Gladden before transferring to North Murray after they moved.

“I’ve brought all my children up in Murray County schools. (Now) We live out of district and my son really wants to finish at Gladded this year before transferring,” Rhonda Gable told the board.

“He’s a straight A student, a football player, and he was voted Mr. Gladden, which is a big deal,” said Gable. “We are hoping to move back into the district.”

The board thanked her for coming out and would look into it.

FYN OP-ED: WHO KNOWS WHAT EVIL LURKS IN THE HEART OF MAN

Murray looks at several options for Sept. 8 first day

Board of Education, News

Murray County students will head back to school on September 8, but what that looks like can change at anytime, depending on the Corona virus acts. The Board of Education heard several options on how school could look come fall. Steve Loughridge, Superintendent of Murray County Schools, stressed they don’t have all the answers but are working to get plans in place for a variety of scenarios.

Traditional

Students will be encouraged to wear masks, especially when social distancing isn’t feasible, such as on the bus. Teachers will wear masks outside their classroom and inside the classroom when working with small groups.

Water fountains will be closed and students are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.

There will be increased cleaning and sanitizing as well as hand sanitizing stations throughout the school.

Bus drivers will wear a mask and have hand sanitizer available. Bus assistants, who buckle children in and assist with handicap students will be provided face shields as they will be in close contact with students.

options

Murray County students can choose traditional or virtual learning when school resumes Sept. 8.

There will still be recess and physical education, and the cafeterias will be open with guidelines to adhere to social distancing.

Should the number of COVID-19 cases start to increase, the school may implement a hybrid learning system.

Hybrid system

All students will be placed on an A/B schedule with each group attending the school two days a week while the alternating group will learn through distance learning. The day that no students are in school will be for teachers to collaborate or meet with students who are working on a topic specific project.

For example if Group A attends school on Mondays and Wednesdays and Group B attends Tuesdays and Thursdays, then Friday would be the collaboration day.

If the number of COVID cases increased to the point that schools need to be closed, then the system will revert to the distance learning model.

This will also help the bus situation, in that it would only have to provide transportation for half the students daily.

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Distance Learning

“This won’t look like last spring,” said Loughridge.

Teachers have undergone a lot of training in case distance learning comes back into play. It will allow flexibility, as students will have to log in daily, but not at a set time.

Staff will report to campus, but students will not be allowed in school.  Unlike the virtual option, distance learning will be run by Murray County teachers.

Virtual learning

options

Photo by Windows on Unsplash
Students will have a virtual option, but won’t be able to participate in sports or extra-curricular activities offered by the schools.

These three models work together, however Loughridge said there was enough interest in a totally virtual option for the system to work with third party vendors to offer that option.

The virtual program, while still part of the Murray County School system, would not be affected by snow days, COVID-19 outbreaks, or other issues that could slow or close traditional school.

The system will offer K-12 options. Right now, Appex provides the program for sixth through 12th grades and they are interview vendors for the lower grades.

A virtual meeting is scheduled for July 27 for parents interested in virtual learning.

As of right now, the system requires students who want to learn virtually to have their own devices as the Chromebooks only support Murray County’s platform and not the platform of the third-party vendor.

“That is something we will continue to look at and it could change,” Loughridge said.

Parents and students also need to be aware that those in the virtual setting are not eligible to compete in sports or extracurricular activities.

“Most of the parents said they were concerned about sending their kids back to school, so we felt we shouldn’t have that option,” said Loughridge. “We can revisit it later.”

Students will have to be approved for the virtual option and must commit to a semester. Loughridge said this is because the program is paid per student, so allowing students to drop and add would not be feasible.

For more information on Murray County schools, visit their website here.

For more Murray County news, visit here.

 

 

UPDATE: Murray County Schools closed

Community, Press Release
MC BOE LOGO murray county schools

After announcing Murray County Schools would remain open, the Murray County Board of Education switched courses and made the decision to close the schools until March 27.

Statement released by the Murray County BOE:

Murray County Schools are proactively closing school campuses for all students for a two-week period through Friday March 27, 2020.

 

March 13, 2020

Due to the latest information from Governor Kemp and President Trump concerning the Coronavirus, Murray County Schools are proactively closing school campuses for all students for a period beginning Monday March 16, 2020 through Friday March 27, 2020. Instruction will continue through homebound activities that were shared with all students and parents today Friday March 13th. This measure is to support local and statewide efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Murray County Schools will reassess the situation on Thursday March 26th and determine if additional time is needed beyond this date. Information will be shared through emails, phone calls, the website, and social media.

We will provide a sack lunch and breakfast meal weekdays starting on Tuesday March 17th thru Friday March 27th at 11:30 am at the student drop off points at the following schools: Bagley Middle, Murray High, Spring Place Elementary. In addition to the school locations meals will also be provided at Spring Place Mobile Home Park in the same location as the summer feeding site.

All Athletic practices and games are suspended through March 27th and will be re-evaluated at that time in cooperation with the Georgia High School Association and Middle School Athletic Association.

Murray County Schools join Gordon County, Calhoun City, and Pickens County. Continue checking for more updates.

Previous story

MURRAY COUNTY, Ga – Murray County Schools announced on Friday, March 13 that at this time the school district will remain open.

“School district officials are working closely with local and state health officials to monitor the evolution of Coronavirus. As of now, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the schools or community,” read the press release.

However, all athletic and extracurricular activities are canceled effective immediately. Special events and field trips were already canceled. A limited number of within-district activities will continue. The school advises checking the website and app for more details.

If the school does close, the plan is to continue education through home learning and beginning today students will receive books, writing materials, curriculum review materials, and student login information to access additional online learning opportunities.

The district added that it’s dedicated to ensuring the safety and well-being of students, staff, and their families.

COVID-19 virus too close for comfort for Murray County

Health, News

Murray County schools found themselves too close to COVID-19 virus when the father of one of their teachers was diagnosed with the virus.  The Board of Education released a statement telling parents that the teacher and a student in a similar situation are quarantined. Local schools are preparing for COVID-19 amid concerns, fears, and close calls. The spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is making waves in the school systems.  Schools in Fulton County are closed due to a confirmed case and while there are no confirmed cases, at least two districts have situations warranting a closer look with a couple of staff members and a student in quarantine.

While there are no confirmed cases in Pickens, Murray, Whitfield, and Gordon counties, local schools found they weren’t totally immune to the threat. There have been some close calls and situations that have some schools taking notice.

Pickens County Schools had a brush as a paraprofessional ate at the same Waffle House in Canton as an employee who had the virus. The paraprofessional isn’t showing symptoms but is “self-quarantined” for the incubation period.

Most local schools have a contingency plan, but one district, Dalton Public Schools, is already developing online curriculum should the schools decide to close.

Pat Holloway, Chief of Staff for Dalton Public Schools, said there are no cases or quarantines involving staff or students in their district, but they are developing curriculumn for students to access via their devices if needed. The system has about 7,800 students with third grade through 12th grade each having their own devices, either laptops or I-pads.

Other area schools, including DPS, are following guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control to reduce the chance of the virus coming into their schools. The Georgia Department of Health has resources available, including guidelines on how to disinfect surfaces.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Center for Disease Control reported there were 23 confirmed cases in Georgia.For a complete listing by state, click here.

The virus spread from the Wuhan in China and has 938 confirmed cases in the United States and 29 deaths. A confirmed case in Fulton County schools led to the closure, according to the Georgia Department of Education, but they are not recommending closures for other schools. To read the GADOE statement, click here.

COVID-19 virus is spread person-to-person and symptoms are flu-like or the common cold.

The CDC recommends:

COVID-19 virus

Handwashing poster from the Georgia Department of Health.

Stop handshaking – use other non-contact methods of greeting.

Clean hands at the door and schedule regular hand washing reminders by email.

Create habits and reminders to avoid touching their faces and cover coughs and sneezes.

Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, desks, and handrails regularly  Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning.

For other tips, visit here.

The Georgia Department of Health recommends:

Washing hands regularly

Get flu shot

Cover coughs and sneezes

Stay home if symptoms appear until they resolve

Murray County Schools

Murray County Schools released the following statement:

Officials with the Murray School system have today been made aware that one of its teacher’s elderly father, who lives in the Atlanta area, was diagnosed on Monday March 8th with COVID-19. The teacher had visited her father during the weekend of March 1st. The teacher is currently, on the instruction of medical professionals, “quarantined” at her parents’ house in Atlanta. Ten days post-exposure, the teacher is exhibiting no signs of illness, and continues to monitor her temperature at least twice per day. She has been instructed to remain in her parent’s home for 14 days post-exposure, which will end this Saturday. Presumably, if she continues to remain symptom free, she will return to school next week.

In addition, we have, within the past hour, been made aware of a student at Northwest Elementary who while attending an out of town event, came in contact with an individual who had contracted COVID-19. They were also recommended to self-quarantine until March 14th.

In the meanwhile, and for the foreseeable future, we will continue to follow CDC best practices and recommendations from State Superintendent of Schools, Richard Woods.

In addition, our custodians are doubling down on sanitation of school buses, common areas, and frequently touch surfaces.

Read our complete coverage on COVID-19.

For more Murray County news, visit here.

 

Other local school districts keeping an eye on COVID-19

Community, News

Other local school districts, Gordon County, Calhoun, Whitfield County and Dalton, are keeping an eye on COVID-19. Other local school districts like Murray County and Murray counties are also preparing for the worse, but hoping for the best.

“To our knowledge, we don’t have any confirmed cases, or anyone in contact with confirmed cases,” said Amy Parker, Director of Communication and Community Relations.

Dr. Michelle Taylor, superintendent of Calhoun City Schools, said her district also had not known connections to COVID-19, but were following the department of public health.

“We’re encouraging students and staff to stay at home if they are sick and making sure our schools are safe and clean,” Taylor said.

Murray County Schools have two quarantined after contact with infected persons. For details, read our story here.

Most local schools have a contingency plan, but one district, Dalton Public Schools, is already developing online curriculum should the schools decide to close.

Pat Holloway, Chief of Staff for Dalton Public Schools, said there are no cases or quarantines involving staff or students in their district, but they are developing curriculumn for students to access via their devices if needed. The system has about 7,800 students with third grade through 12th grade each having their own devices, either laptops or I-pads. For more information, click here.

Other area schools, including DPS, are following guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control to reduce the chance of the virus coming into their schools. The Georgia Department of Health has resources available, including guidelines on how to disinfect surfaces.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Center for Disease Control reported there were 23 confirmed cases in Georgia.For a complete listing by state, click here.

The see how Pickens County Schools are responding, see our story here.

The virus spread from the Wuhan in China and has 938 confirmed cases in the United States and 29 deaths. A confirmed case in Fulton County schools led to the closure, according to the Georgia Department of Education, but they are not recommending closures for other schools. To read the GADOE statement, click here.

COVID-19 virus is spread person-to-person and symptoms are flu-like or the common cold.

The CDC recommends:

COVID-19 virus

Handwashing poster from the Georgia Department of Health.

Stop handshaking – use other non-contact methods of greeting.

Clean hands at the door and schedule regular hand washing reminders by email.

Create habits and reminders to avoid touching their faces and cover coughs and sneezes.

Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, desks, and handrails regularly  Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning.

For other tips, visit here.

The Georgia Department of Health recommends:

Washing hands regularly

Get flu shot

Cover coughs and sneezes

Stay home if symptoms appear until they resolve

 

Read our complete coverage on COVID-19.

 

From Gordon County Schools:

  • March 6, 2020

    Dear Parents/Guardians/Staff:

    We understand that there is a great deal of concern about the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and we wanted to take the opportunity to reassure our families that Gordon County Schools is closely monitoring the situation and is in frequent contact with Department of Public Health officials for updates to ensure we have the latest and most accurate information.

    In the latest information received today from DPH, Governor Kemp reiterated that, “To prevent the spread of incomplete or inaccurate information, we encourage Georgians to rely on guidance from the CDC, the DPH, and my office. We will continue to provide regular updates to keep the public informed and ensure the health and safety of families across our state.”  For the complete DPH release, visit our website.

    As a school system, we continue to take precautions in our schools to help keep our children safe.  Our custodial staff is regularly cleaning and disinfecting work and play areas throughout our facilities, following the suggested protocols from the Department of Public Health.  Our transportation department is also cleaning and disinfecting busses.

    Please continue to implement the following measures to help us combat a breakout in our schools:

    • Stay home from work or school and limit contact with others when you are sick.
    • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and properly discard used tissues. If no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
    • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
    • Avoid close contact with those who are ill.

    Up-to-date health information can be obtained at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

    For more information on Gordon County Schools and COVID-19, visit here.

With the increasing concern of the Coronavirus (a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person) around the globe, Whitfield County Schools would like to remind students, parents, faculty and staff of simple, everyday actions that can be taken to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. 

1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. *Parents, please do not bring your child(ren) to school if they are sick.
2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
3. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand santitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
4. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

As always, the first priority of Whitfield County Schools is the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and their families. Therefore, our school district is closely monitoring the Coronavirus and making the necessary preparations in case the virus becomes more prevalent in our community. In situations like this, we always take our guidance from the medical professionals at our local Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. At this time, they are telling us that we are at low risk for the spread of the virus. As a system, we are being proactive in the prevention of any spread of the virus. We contract with a cleaning company to clean all facilities every day. They are using cleaning solutions designed to kill the Coronavirus.

We are told that the best prevention at school is to wash hands. Our teachers are diligent to give students opportunities to wash their hands frequently. They are supervising younger children to make sure that they are washing hands thoroughly. Symptoms of the Coronavirus are fever, onset of a cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after exposure, and the average incubation period is reported to be about 5 days. Eighty percent of patients with confirmed Coronavirus have only mild symptoms. If your children have any of these symptoms, please do not send them to school.

At this time the Georgia Department of Public Health has advised us that students who are not ill can safely attend school. The Georgia Department of Education is in regular contact with the Department of Health, and we receive updates almost daily. If their recommendations change, we will certainly let you know.

Should it become necessary to close a school or schools, our Teaching and Learning staff has a plan for continuing the education of our students. Of course, the plan varies with the grade level. Should we need to close, you will receive more specific information. Additional information on continuation of academics would be placed on our Whitfield County Schools website in the event of closure.

Whitfield County Schools is working closely with state health officials to monitor the evolution of the Coronavirus and its potential impact on our community. For more information regarding the Coronavirus, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Follow Whitfield County Schools here.

From the Georgia Department of Education, click here.

 

Murray County Schools look to replace Windstream

Community, News
MC BOE LOGO murray county schools

The Murray County Board of Education heard support for changing the system’s internet provider to ENA from Windstream. The contract expires in July but the board will vote on the change in their regular meeting on Monday.

“Windstream is not reliable,” said Steve Loughridge, Superintendent of Murray County Schools.

Murray County Board of Education

The Murray County Board of Education discussed switching internet providers at the work session on Thursday.

Loughridge stated that ENA has partnered with Dalton Utilities and is also the service provider for much of the Murray County government, with the exception of a couple of fire stations.

ENA currentlhy does not have service in the area of Northwest Elementary School but Loughridge said ENA officials have assured him that if they win the bid, they will have service to it by July.

He also said that Spectrum’s bid was a little lower, but the school system didn’t have any experience with them.

“We feel ENA is the most reliable,” he reiterated.

New security at schools

The board also heard updates purchases for each school using $30,000 per school that the legislature awarded the district. The money is for improving security at schools, Loughridge said.

Purchases include new radios for the buses, which should improve communication between buses and schools, security cameras in various schools not already equipped with them. Gladden Middle and Pleasant Valley Elementary schools will each get new intercom systems.

“Pleasant Valley doesn’t even have an intercom system,” Loughridge said. “Gladden’s system is old.”

Other schools will have more keyless entry points, he added.

“We’re in pretty good shape, so sometimes, it was a struggle to find something (they would approve the money for),” he said, explaining that proposed purchases had to be approved.

To view more of Loughridge’s comments on the purchases, click here.

In other board news:

A proposition was made to declare some school buses as surplus so they can either be sold through bidding or auctioned off.

Announced a two-hour delay on Friday due to recent storms. To learn more, visit FYN’s story here.

 

 

 

 

 

Murray County Schools CLOSED January 29, 2019

News

Murray County Schools are on CLOSED January 29, 2019.

Murray County Schools on Delay Feb 9th

News

All Murray County schools will be delayed 2 hours on Tuesday morning, 2/9.  If you travel please use caution.

Murray County Schools Closed Jan 20th 2016

News

ALL Murray County Schools will be closed tomorrow, Wednesday January 20th due the impending winter weather that is forecast to have an immediate impact on roads as ground temperatures are already below freezing.

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