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Staff Photo by Kelly Jackson / One plan for Murray County schools would call for district buses (shown here in a file photo) to drive around with mobile hotspots, allowing students to download assignments.

Friday was the last day of school for students at Murray County (Georgia) Schools.

On Thursday night, the Murray County school board voted to end the 2019-20 academic school year May 8 for its 12 schools. The last day of school was originally scheduled for May 22.

School board member Renda Baggett said the board had heard of other school districts, such as Cartersville City Schools in nearby Bartow County, ending their academic years early and decided this was the best decision to prepare students and staff for next year.

"I hope our students got all they needed," Baggett said. "I was a teacher for 30 years, and I can't imagine going through something like this as a teacher. I'm sorry to see this happen to everyone, but it was out of our control."

Millions of students across the country have been learning from home using online education tools since March.

Students in the U.S., including those in the Chattanooga area and Northwest Georgia, have had to sacrifice nearly a third of their in-classroom school year to the coronavirus pandemic.

Baggett said Murray County Schools is already considering the financial implications of lost time and an uncertain education landscape once summer has come and gone.

With the academic school year done, teachers will now be focusing on a scenario in which students are not allowed back in school in August or September. Baggett said teachers are learning how to create lesson plans using Chromebooks.

If students still can't come to school in August or September, the district would have to make sure it has a Chromebook for every student, Baggett said.

The school board discussed two other plans that it will evaluate over the summer.

In "Plan A," students will report to schools as scheduled and will go through two weeks of intensive training to cover any standards and lessons they may have missed or didn't complete due to the shutdown. After the two weeks, students will resume normal lesson plans with an added hour during school for them to continue to catch up on things they may have missed.

"Which hopefully will get everybody where they need to be," Baggett said. "It'll take a lot of planning and training."

"Plan B" would be implemented if social distancing requirements are still in place. Murray County Schools could see a staggered schedule under which certain students come to school on Mondays and Wednesdays while others go on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"Plan C" would be an expensive and complicated one.

"We have a lot of kids that don't have internet in our county," she said. "We're trying to plan for every situation."

Baggett said the board and school district have talked about purchasing internet hot spots that would be installed on school buses. For students without reliable internet, they would wait at home with their Chromebooks until the bus drives by. They could download that day's assignment from the internet hot spot and then complete the assignment once they have it on their device.

For the next few weeks, students still will be able to improve their grades by handing in assignments.

"I just hope and pray we could go back," Baggett said.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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