Savannah Classical drops virtual-learning option starting Monday

By Barbara AugsdorferPosted Oct 30, 2020 at 3:57 PM   

Savannah Classical Academy (SCA) will discontinue the dual-learning model effective Monday and offer face-to-face instruction only. SCA was the only school within the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools System to offer a choice between face-to-face and virtual instruction to its students when school started on Aug. 19. SCA is a K-12 charter school within the district.

While no bus transportation was offered, at that point about 40% of SCA’s families signed up for face-to-face instruction, while the remaining 60% started virtually. Many parents who opted for the virtual option cited lack of bus transportation as the main issue. As the school year progressed and SCA did not have any positive COVID cases among students or staff, the number of families opting to send their children to in-person school gradually increased to 70%. All of SCA’s teachers returned to campus the first day of school.

SCA does not participate in the district’s hybrid cohort system, nor close on Wednesdays for deep cleaning. The school does its own cleaning and sanitizing after students and staff have left the buildings each day.

“The school reviewed the progress of students in both virtual and on-campus models and concluded that managing both models reduced the students’ best opportunity for successful learning outcomes of next grade level readiness,” stated a press release issued on Friday morning.

The charter school currently has 409 students. For the students who continue to have transportation issues, it’s come down to a choice of staying in SCA or transferring to another school. SCA is not able to offer bus transportation to its students due to the district proposing to charge charter schools fees for that service — in SCA’s case, more than $2,800 per day. Free bus transportation is offered to SCA’s “least independent learners” in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“We hate that our families are having to make that choice, but we do understand,” said Barry Lollis, SCA executive director. “We’re reminding them that our lottery for next year opens up on Nov. 9. We hope that they get back in the lottery. We’re disappointed that because the district has decided to impose this cost on charter schools, during a time when families need support the most. It’s disheartening and disappointing.”

Lollis added that since the start of school there have been no positive COVID cases; and students and staff are happy to be there every day.

“We are so fortunate that we have not had any of the positive cases,” Lollis explained. “We had a faculty meeting yesterday to remind everybody that we will have more students coming on campus on Monday, and [to continue to] adhere to our distancing and all sanitation protocols we put in place.”

He added that the school’s success in this regard is all about the parents and the staff.

“We’re not saying we have the magic bullet. Our parents are doing a really good job talking to their children about hand washing, wearing their masks, and we rarely have any issues with students or anyone not following our protocols,” Lollis added. “That’s a testament to the teachers and parents for understanding our protocols and the students buying into them.”