Details are still being worked out, but officials with Roswell Independent School District discussed for the first time publicly plans to reopen school buildings for the 2020-21 school year at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
Branded the “Roadmap to Re-entry,” it includes plans for a hybrid schedule of classroom and remote instruction, an option for all-online education, and safety practices regarding busing, food service, nursing and more.
Superintendent Mike Gottlieb presented the information in his report at the end of Tuesday’s RISD school board meeting. Over the next hour and 45 minutes, Gottlieb introduced members of the RISD staff who are part of the back-to-school committee to outline what the district will be doing to help ensure student and staff safety. Each spoke over the phone.
The district will soon be releasing official information through multiple outlets in both English and Spanish to inform parents of the plans. In addition to its website and Facebook page, the district will disseminate information through community organizations, media and flyers.
Plans could change quickly as the situation with the pandemic changes, one RISD official said.
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“We’re trying to cover all possibilities so that we can respond in a timely manner if any changes come up,” Mireya Trujillo, assistant superintendent for human resources, said.
Following is a summary of the subcommittee reports.
The district’s schools will operate on an A-B schedule, with approximately half the students in the school buildings on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays.
Roughly, students whose last names start with the letter A through L will be in classrooms on Mondays and Tuesdays and learn at home the rest of the week, Jennifer Cole, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said.
The remainder of the students will comprise the B group and will learn at home Mondays through Wednesdays and be in their schools on Thursdays and Fridays.
On Wednesdays, schools and buses will be thoroughly cleaned.
Individual schools will likely make adjustments to the alphabetical split depending on their demographics, Cole said.
Adjustments will also try to be made so all the students in one family are on the same schedule.
“One of our concerns was for families who have students at multiple grade levels might need those older children to support childcare for younger children during remote learning,” Cole said.
Some students will be able to attend classes in the schools all four days. Those include preschool and kindergarten students, special needs students who have an individualized education program, English learners and children of RISD staff.
The district will be offering an option to learn from home full-time, called Roswell Schools Online Academy.
“We’re finalizing the system for enrolling students and families who are wanting 100% virtual. That’s a very important component for us right now,” Cole said.
Gottlieb said the district should have Chromebooks available for all students by the beginning of the school year, now scheduled for Aug. 19.
Internet access for all students will be difficult, however. The district has previously reported 53% of its students do not have internet access at home.
The $2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed in March has provided the district with funds to create internet hotspots at each of its buildings that will be accessible only with the district’s Chromebooks or other district devices.
“The problem with that, though, is you’ve got to sit outside in a car that’s maybe 100 degrees. That’s not conducive to learning,” Gottlieb said.
The district did investigate costs of providing each student and teacher access to the internet. That price tag, Gottlieb said, was about $5 million to $6 million per year.
Most likely the district will have to send some students home with packets of learning material, as it did in the spring, Gottlieb said.
All teachers and staff will have to answer an online COVID-19 screening questionnaire before entering buildings each day. Their responses will tell them if they are cleared to enter the building or if they should check in with the nurse for further screening, Katie McClain, nursing supervisor, said.
Students will not have their temperatures taken each day. While the PED recommends screening students, it is not mandatory, and the amount of time that would take is prohibitive, McClain said.
“Right now, we’re looking at screening only the students we have concerns about,” she said.
Each building will have an isolation room for students who show COVID-19 symptoms and a well-child room for those students who have scheduled procedures or medications.
School nurses will also have mobile carts so they can provide care for students in the classroom or on the playground.
Custodians will frequently wipe down high-contact areas such as faucets, door handles, toilet handles and railings. Daily logs of sanitation efforts will be kept and must be signed by both the custodian and principal.
All students and staff will have to wear masks, which will be provided. The district has used $80,000 in CARES Act funds to purchase masks, Gottlieb said. Sanitizing chemicals and wipes have been purchased for each classroom. Some students will also have face shields, which the district has purchased from Christmas by Krebs. The company has repurposed its Roswell manufacturing plant to make the shields.
In some schools, preschool through eighth grade students will eat both breakfast and lunch in their classrooms, as cafeterias and even gyms might be used for teaching spaces.
In high schools, students will go through the cafeteria line as normal for both breakfast and lunch. Students will have assigned spaces where they are to eat.
For days when students are at home, the grab and go meals will be available each day at five locations for parents to pick up.
Kim Meeks, director of student nutrition, said the cafeteria committee did look at sending three days’ worth of meals home with students, but had concerns about children being able to carry that much food, as well as food safety issues.
Students on paid meal plans will be charged for at-home meals.
The district has a survey on its website now to gauge how many students will be riding the bus, Chad Cole, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said.
It’s important for the district to know before school starts not only how many students will ride buses, but also how many at each grade level and how many students from the same family will go to different schools, Cole said.
“We have the same dilemma on our school buses that we’re going to have in our classrooms, and that’s space,” he said.
PED guidelines call for no more than two students per seat, with 6-foot social distancing.
“Communication is an essential factor,” Gottlieb said. “You’re probably going to have to make one and a half runs to get everybody to school.”
That could mean some students won’t arrive at their schools until after 8 a.m. start times, he said. Likewise, students could arrive home later than in the past.
Drivers will wipe down seats and surfaces that are frequently touched in between route runs, Cole said. The district will provide the drivers with cleaning supplies.
All students on the bus and drivers will be required to wear masks. Some drivers will also wear face shields, if they do not interfere with driving, Cole said.
“We will not be turning away students at the bus stops, period. That’s not going to happen. If they don’t have a mask, we are going to have masks on hand for those students entering the buses,” he said.
Cole said the district has not received any guidance on whether or not bus drivers must be tested for COVID-19. They will have to fill out the online screening questions that teachers and other staff will answer each day.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.