Lee County School System returns to classes on Friday with new safety protocols in place

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Aug. 3—ALBANY — It's the end of the summer for Lee County School System students this week as classes for the 6,250 enrolled for the 2022-2023 school year resume on Friday.

School staff members have returned and are preparing for the new year by attending training sessions, and open house events are continuing for parents.

For administrators, the focus is on safety with the continuing presence of the novel coronavirus in the community and the memory of the recent horrific massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The school system has hired two additional school resource officers — law enforcement officers who work and are housed on school campuses — who will be based at Lee County and Twin Oaks Elementary Schools, Superintendent Jason Miller said in an Aug. 2 letter to parents.

Those officers also will spend time at the system's primary schools. All middle schools and the high school also have school resources officers on campus.

In addition, the school system is making technology upgrades to enhance safety, including "School Guard" mobile panic buttons that connect staff members directly to the 911 emergency system.

"(Miller) also wanted to let our parents know that our local law enforcement officers did a couple of active-shooter drills over the summer," Yolanda Robinson, the public relations coordinator for the system, said. "We really want to be focused on the safety of our kids because that is a top priority.

"It's so scary. It's scary what one of the officers said to us and his fellow officers: 'This can happen anywhere.' We just have to be diligent in our preparation."

School safety plans and technology have been updated, and the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security agencies will complete a safety audit early in the school year.

In addition, the school system has a Tipline feature at the top right corner of its main web page for reporting safety concerns. It also is installing an alarm system that will send an alert if a door is left propped open.

The school system began requiring students in the middle schools and high school to carry clear book bags a couple of years ago, Robinson said.

For COVID-19, the protocols in place will be the same as at the end of the previous school year, Robinson said. Masks will be optional, and the infection tracing system has been suspended with the relaxation of restrictions by Gov. Brian Kemp and the local health department.

Individuals who have tested positive or been exposed should follow recommendations, she said, and stay off campus until recovery or a negative test results.

"We are trusting people to do the right thing," she said. "We've been in this a few years, so I hope people know the protocol.

"We're back to eating in the cafeteria, and we'll have our clubs meeting as normally as possible as well as field trips. This year we're going to try to get back to normal."

For parents, the school system has initiated a new communications resource to centralize sources of information into a more accessible and, hopefully, less confusing format.

"Some parents were saying there are too many places to go to get information," Robinson said. "We streamlined that, and we're moving to a new platform, ParentsWare. We're really excited about that."

In addition to giving parents a one-stop place to go for information, the system provides a mass notification component that allows the system to send notifications to parents quickly.