County Schools Still Aiming For Aug. 12 Opening Day - With Many New Restrictions In Place

Thursday, May 21, 2020

County School officials are still aiming for opening campuses throughout the system for the first full day of school on Aug. 12.

However, there will be a number of precautions in place to try to avert any spread of the coronavirus that brought an abrupt halt to school on March 11 and put a damper on later graduations.

Col. William Brooks, who is heading the reopening initiative along with Keith Fogelman, said the top priority will be "the health of students, teachers and employees."

He said initially, "It will be anything but business as usual."

Students and employees alike will be given health screenings as they arrive at school. 

There will be limits on visitors to the school as well as vendor visits.

A new emphasis on keeping the schools thoroughly clean will be part of the plan.

Col. Brooks said the aim will be to have students at their schools, rather than being taught online remotely. He said, "Nothing can replace the value of having a student in the classroom setting" with the various supports and interaction available.

Mr. Fogelman said if a situation arises of "significant spread" of the virus in the community, then the schools would not be able to stay open and distance learning would kick back in.

In the case of "moderate spread," there would be reduced time on campus. While students are there they would focus on the core curriculum.

With "minimum spread," all schools would be open.

Officials said if there were a case or cases of the virus at a particular school that could trigger the school closing and getting a deep cleaning. It could reopen when the threat is deemed to be past.

A Reopening Task Force is being formed that will include the School Board chairman or designee, the County Commission chairman or designee, health professionals, students, teachers, administrators and community members.

Board member Rhonda Thurman recommended including a school bus driver as well as a cafeteria employee.

Joe Smith, another board member, noted that how to handle student transportation with all the virus concerns will be a difficult issue.

Jenny Hill, of the board, said if the schools are forced to go back to remote learning that "it should't just be a throwaway year." She said there should be a full program for students along with accountability on how they are learning.

One issue is whether parents can opt for remote learning when they still do not feel comfortable sending their child to school.

Ms. Thurman said parents should be alerted that regular classroom teachers, who teach on campus all day, would not be the ones also delivering the remote learning to students who choose that option.

Board member Steve Highlander said in some districts instructors deemed in the high-risk category would be assigned to remote teaching.

Mr. Highlander was among those commenting that the county schools might pick up enrollment increases from some students now attending private schools.

He said, "They may not be willing to keep paying $15,000 to $20,000 to just get online learning."

 

 


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