Congressman Rick Allen visits Columbia County schools, applauds educators

Augusta Chronicle
Amanda King

Augusta Congressman Rick Allen called Columbia County teachers and leaders warriors for their resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Evans High School graduate visited his alma mater and Grovetown Elementary School on Wednesday morning after being invited by one of the elementary teachers. Allen said the efforts being made were “an amazing tribute to what America can do” through creativity in education.

“We’re going to beat (COVID), and we’re not going to let it destroy this country educationally or economically,” he said.

During the school visits, Allen was impressed with how elementary students were wearing masks and social distancing and noted that many colleges are shutting down because students will not observe those rules. He also noticed how happy students appeared after being able to return to school.

Following the visits, Allen met with district leaders during a working lunch to hear about the steps they are taking to keep schools clean and efforts made for learning in person and at home.

Approximately 75% of the more than 28,000 students enrolled in Columbia County schools returned for in-person learning and the district is continuing to adapt its plan as virus cases increase. The district completed placing 700 ionization modules in all 32 schools and now plans to place 300 in school buses according to associate superintendent Penny Jackson. The modules are installed in HVAC systems and help cleanse the air to prevent illness including but not limited to COVID. Large gathering areas such as cafeterias and playgrounds will also be misted with disinfectant every 90 minutes.

As athletic events begin, capacity for spectators in venues will be reduced to 33% at high school events to allow for social distancing. Spectators will also be screened prior to entering.
“We still want them to enjoy school and enjoy Football Friday Night and have that experience that we all had,” Jackson said.

In its most recent report, the district stated it had 20 students who tested positive for the virus, three school personnel and two people in support departments. All three school personnel were from elementary schools where students are not required to wear masks but are highly recommended to do so. The report is updated weekly.

Allen said he will be speaking with President Trump on Thursday and will tell him about Columbia County schools. He plans to recommend that the president visit the district to see the “heroes” who are fighting the battle during COVID. He also said he would recommend the school system’s plan to other school districts throughout the country.

“What I saw today was the America that I’m so proud of,” Allen said. “Every one of you should get a Purple Heart.”

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