City BOE reveals plan for reopening schools

Posted

The Jasper City Board of Education has released a plan for reopening schools that is aimed at keeping students, faculty, and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic — all while providing a high-quality education for students.

The school system unveiled the plan, which will be revised as needed, late Thursday.

Comprised of 29 pages, the plan answers many questions and provides a list of procedures that will be followed during the 2020-21 school year.

The document details everything from daily general procedures for on-site learning, student registration, attendance, instruction, meals, transportation, remote learning, and more.

As previously reported, students will either attend traditional school beginning Thursday, Aug. 20 or be remote learners. Blended learning may also be utilized for traditional students during the school year if ceasing on-campus instruction were necessary.

The first four weeks of school will also be different, in that school will be closed each Wednesday to thoroughly disinfect all school buildings. Students will do virtual learning on those days.

"This will be the beginning of an evolving document that will grow and change as new questions and guidance are made available to us locally," Superintendent Dr. Ann Jackson said of the roadmap for reopening schools. "COVID-19 is new to everyone and information changes daily."

For students who will be attending school on-campus, arrival procedures will be much different than in years past. Anyone entering a Jasper City school each morning will be temperature checked. If a child has a fever greater than 99.4 degrees, he or she will report to the nurse's office. A parent will then be called to pick up their child.

All students will also be required to have a face mask and must be wearing a mask when they enter a school building. Once students arrive in their designated classrooms, they will be instructed on whether to keep their masks on or take them off.

Anyone who enters a school building will also be asked to answer a series of health questions to determine COVID-19 exposure or symptoms. 

Throughout the school day, students will be required to wear a mask that is cloth or medical grade in holding areas, during hallway transitions, on school buses, and at other times required at the discretion of school personnel.

An exception to face mask wear will be considered for students and faculty members if wearing a mask would be detrimental to their health and impact breathing efficacy.

In addition to wearing masks, many school day procedures have been altered as a result of the plan.

Water fountains will be turned off, and it is recommended that students bring their own water bottles to school. Academic lockers will also not be issued or used.

Restroom use will occur on a scheduled basis. "Teachers will monitor a few students at a time, thus managing restroom activity," the plan states. Students will also be assigned a restroom to use that is closest to their classroom.

Restrooms will be closed is grades 7-12 during classroom changes as well. According to the plan, "Individual classes will be given time frames for usage and will allow students in need to use during those times."

Specific transition procedures between classes are also detailed in the plan, which will vary according to alert levels.

The school system is utilizing alert levels that will determine how daily operations will be altered according to reported COVID-19 cases.

Alert level one would indicate "cases are rare and contact tracing can be used to control the virus," according to the plan. Alert level two would signal a "moderate number of cases ... with most cases from a known source."

During alert level three, many COVID-19 cases would be reported "including community spread, with undetected cases likely." Alert level four would indicate a "widespread outbreak."

Other daily school operations will be impacted as follows:

• Enrichment activities such as art, music, library, etc., may be canceled altogether or instructors may travel to individual classrooms. 

• Students will not be able to check out library books; however, according to the alert level, the policy may be changed. Digital books will be encouraged.

• Activities at designated learning stations and the use of SMART boards could be discontinued during an alert level of two or greater.

• Classroom materials will not be shared.

• During an alert level one, physical education will continue as normal. An alert level two or greater will require social distanced, non-contact activities. If an alert level three or greater is issued, physical education may be prohibited until further notice. 

• Students who require specialized education may have a revision to their individual plans, if necessary.

• Students who require speech therapy or language assistance will be educated in small groups while maintaining social distancing. Disinfection will occur between groups.

• Meals will be served in areas designated by principals, whether that be in individual classrooms or in the cafeteria with 50 percent occupancy. All meals will be served in a grab and go fashion.

"Students who bring meals from home will need to pack items that do not require heating or reheating. All food items and beverages should be sent with the student," the plan states.

• Field trips will not occur until further notice.

• Athletics and extracurricular activities will continue according to guidance from the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

• After school programs may or may not occur, depending on alert status. In addition, the plan informs, "Jasper City Schools did not receive the 21st Century After School Grant, therefore JCS will not be offering a school-sponsored after school program."

• A crisis response team has been developed to address the mental health needs of staff and students during this time.

• If a student or employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, "all persons within the class/organization will be notified," the plan states. A period of quarantine for exposed individuals could be required.

• Dismissal procedures will be determined by each school.

• Digital devices will continue to be provided for each student in K-12. An annual technology fee of $30 per student is required, with a $90 cap for district-wide siblings.

• Desks will be spaced in classrooms to allow for social distancing, and dividers are being purchased for student tables.

• Guests may or may not be allowed on campus, according to alert level status. 

Jasper City Schools has also developed a plan to address school bus transportation.

The school system is asking parents to bring their children to school if at all possible. Bus riders, however, will have to adhere to strict guidelines.

Students who ride school buses will be required to wear a facial covering and will be required to face forward during transportation. 

"If students do not adhere to this mandate, they will not be allowed to continue riding the bus and parents will have to provide transportation," the plan notes.

Eating will also be prohibited on school buses, and students will have an assigned seat.

School buses will reportedly be disinfected prior to the start of each route, between runs, and following all school bus rides.

Disinfecting procedures will also occur regularly in schools, and sanitizing machines have been purchased for each school. Sanitizing spray bottles will also be in each classroom.

The school system has also purchased hand sanitizing stations for each school.

Further procedures are detailed in the school plan.

Student registration is currently underway, with each school releasing specific registration times. Parents may also register their children online.

Students who will learn remotely will access two programs — SchoolsPLP or ACCESS. Both are not Jasper City Schools' programs, and the school system lists details about both programs in the plan for reopening schools.

Parents have until July 15 to decide if their child will attend school for on-campus instruction or whether they will opt for the remote option. Students who become enrolled in remote schooling cannot switch back to traditional school until the end of a nine-week academic period. 

A link to the plan is available at https://www.jasper.k12.al.us/ and includes a list of frequently asked questions.

"I wish we were in a state of normalcy, but we realize this year will not be simple," Jackson said. "Please know that we miss having our students, your children, on our school grounds, and I look forward to having our students back on campus."

She continued, "I realize that many of you have anxiety and worry about returning your most valuable resource to our school. But I also encourage you to know that your children are also the most valuable resource to Jasper City Schools. With our joint effort, we will achieve a great and successful school year."    

The school system's plan for reopening schools was developed by a wellness committee that includes Jackson; parent and physician Dr. Katherine Bivona; nurse practitioner and system lead nurse Penne Mott; parent a director of special programs Cathy Edgil; parent and Jasper Jr. High School Assistant Principal Amy O'Rear; parent and Jasper High School health sciences teacher Vicki Lyle; Jasper High health teacher Coach Tyrone Prothro; and pharmacist and Jasper City Board of Education member Teresa Sherer.   

__

For more education news from the Daily Mountain Eagle, visit http://www.mountaineagle.com/education.