The South Country School District plans to reopen with modified schedules, masks, desks six feet apart and cleaning measures. Prior to submitting the plans, in addition to numerous committee and subcommittee meetings, superintendent of schools Dr. Joseph Giani hosted a live Zoom meeting with about 100-plus parents for input.
“As we navigate these new unchartered waters... on July 13, the governor [Cuomo] announced that reopening schools will be data driven in New York State, [meaning] schools can reopen at Phase 4 if daily infection rate is below 5 percent,”Giani addressed to the group, explaining that the discussion is not based on final decisions.
TENTATIVE REOPENING PLAN
The South Country School District, Giani explained, is currently slated to reopen schools under the guidance of the New York State Education Depart- ment and has set up several committees—including the general health, safety guidance, social distancing, solutions for secondary schools, elementary schools, facilities, cleaning and disin- fecting and remote teaching and learn- ing — to submit reopening plans by the end of the month. Earlier this week, the committees submitted their individual plans to be reviewed for recommenda- tions.
Also, a parent survey went out earlier this month and closed late last week with results from over 900 responses.
According to Giani, about 64 percent of those who took the survey stated that they were ready to go back to live instruction, while about 20 percent were not and about 16 percent were unsure.
The plan, Giani said, is very fluid, but will most likely enable schools to reopen safely with social distancing and masks. However, students would not be required to wear their masks while safely socially distanced, but would require one in halls or when walking in the classroom.
The response concerned some parents on the chat who questioned if air quality would be addressed. Giani said the district is currently looking into replacing filters based on state recommendations. Also, ventilation would be increased whenever possible and the district will be allowing for outdoor instruction in good weather in addition to recess.
As for the modified schedules, Giani said the district is currently planning a flipped A-day, B-day schedule based on last names in the alphabet so that siblings would be attending classes the same days, creating less of an issue for child care. Class sizes, however, would not be modified, but the number of kids in a classroom on any given day would with about 12 to 15 students. Hallways would also have staggered release times for less interaction.
As for remote learning, Giani explained that the district “must and will do better.” An overwhelming part of the survey, he said, was the need for remote live-learning.
“We are certainly going to try to make this happen; kids need interaction from their teacher and each other,” he added. “We assure you will do a better job with remote learning.”
As for buses, about 40 percent of families said they would be utilizing the services, with the remaining unsure. Buses, he said, would be cleaned and facemasks would be worn at all times. However, due to the modified schedule, fewer children would be on the buses at any given time, creating social distancing as well.
Before entering the schools, Giani said that students and teachers would be screened; however, it has not been determined how it would happen and plexiglass would not be installed due to fire code reasons. No one will be permitted access with a temperature of 100 or above. Pre-K will also resume with similar precautions; however, aftercare programs might not due to the need to maintain cohorted or grouped students.
As for lunch, Giani continued, there would be no masks while eating, either in the classroom or in the lunchroom, and students would be socially distanced. He also said the district is working towards acquiring Chromebooks for every student, at least middle school and above. However, funding is not available. Also, masks have been purchased for staff and teachers; however, parents will be asked to purchase masks.
“We recognize parents will want kids wearing their own masks,” he added.
By the end of month, according to the district, the protocol will be finalized and submitted to the state, then released to the district sometime in the beginning of August.