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Monroe County students to return to the classroom

 

“We made this decision because we think we can do it safely. We also know that parents need us to do this so they can work and support their families, and students need this in order to learn and grow successfully. Virus spread in our community is not at a high level; it has been below 7% for the past ten days, and after consultation with the health department, we believe as long as we all follow safety guidelines, students and teachers can remain safe and healthy,” said Axford. She said she will be continuing to monitor this closely as the date to bring students back approaches.

 

“This remains a fluid situation and, while we all want this to work smoothly, circumstances could change and we may have to change with those circumstances,” she said.

 

On Monday, August 31st, the most vulnerable students will be brought back to classrooms, including those who principals and teachers feel may need a little extra help with navigating the change, and with navigating the different routines they will be facing with the return to school.

 

“Schools are going to look very different, and the rules for moving around and interacting will be very different. Some students will just need a little extra time to adjust,” said Axford. Individual schools have already reached out to the families of these students with details of the return on Monday. Parents with questions about this should contact their child’s school directly.

 

On Tuesday, September 8th, schools will begin bringing all students back, on a staggered schedule, for orientation. Families and students will be contacted with the date and time they should report and what they will need to do for the orientation. The orientation will help them all navigate safety changes implemented by each school, such as:

  • Smaller classrooms of 8 - 12 students, 15 if it is possible within social distancing guidelines
  • One way hallways so that students are not passing each other, thus maintaining safe social distancing
  • Recreation times utilizing small cohorts that will stay together
  • “Grab and go” lunches they will eat with their cohorts / class groups in their classrooms instead of in the cafeteria

Schools have designed plans individually, specific to the layout of the school and what will work best for the facility and those who work and attend school there. Teachers and administrators will talk to students about how to stay safe: wearing their masks, not sharing materials in the classroom, staying with their groups and keeping their work areas clean. Each school has worked hard designing extra classroom space and safe layout of classrooms to ensure students are far enough apart. They have added lots of extra signage to remind everyone about masks, social distancing, hand washing and other requirements.

 

“Social distancing, mask-wearing, handwashing, using cohorts to keep students in the same small groups, cleaning and sanitizing on a regular basis. These are the things which will keep us all safe, students and teachers alike. We want to do this successfully. We want to be able to continue doing this, but the only way this will work is if we all follow the rules and respect each other when it comes to health and safety,” said Axford.

 

On September 14th, schools will open for business following the “moderate exposure” plan, outlined in the district’s Guide to Safely Reopening Schools. The guide can be found on the district’s website and on their blog, mcsd-fl.blogspot.com. Under this plan, students in grades PreK-5 will be in school five days a week with their assigned teacher. Students in grades 6 - 12 will return on a part time basis and attend virtual school on days they are not in the classroom. Individual schools are making their own decisions about what days students will be in the classroom. Students will be in an “A” or “B” group; they will then attend school on the days assigned to their group. Schools will be reaching out to families and students with specifics. The purpose of such a schedule is to keep the student population in the schools at a safe level; fewer students will allow for social distancing in the classroom, and for fewer students in hallways and other public areas.

 

What happens if someone gets sick?

 

While schools will not be testing or requiring a daily temperature check, parents and students will be asked to do a self check each day looking for signs and symptoms of illness. Teachers have been trained as well to look for illness in others. If a student or teacher becomes ill at school, they will report directly to the school nurse who will immediately contact the health department for guidance. The health department will then begin the process of contact tracing and contacting anyone who might be at risk. Utilizing small classrooms and cohorts will help to keep any spread small and will enable the school to continue operating as those who were in contact with the illness are appropriately isolated and/or quarantined. The district and the health department will notify anyone whose child or family might be affected.

 

How will busing work for my child?

 

The district has already asked everyone who will be riding the bus to register with the district so they would be able to plan appropriately. They have designed a modified schedule for those who ride buses to school. Times may be different in order to allow for fewer students on each bus. Buses will load from back to front and unload from front to back so students will not pass each other in the process. Masks will, of course, be required. Buses will be periodically wiped down and cleaned between bus runs as well as sanitized on a regular basis. Individual schools will make sure students and families who utilize bus transportation understand the new schedules and how it will all work. Anyone who needs more information about busing and bus schedules should contact their child’s school directly.

 

Will I be able to visit the school and my child’s classroom?

 

Visitors to each school will be limited. They will be required to check in, to wear a mask and sign a form to ensure they are not feeling ill or showing signs of illness. School administrators will have latitude to determine which visitors are essential and their access to the school will be controlled and limited to only those areas they need to visit.

 

Will there be group events at the school?

 

Group events will be limited and only held infrequently if at all. Each event will be evaluated individually to determine if they are necessary and can be held safely.

 

What about sanitizing and cleaning supplies?

 

Teachers and classrooms are being provided with all the supplies they feel they need to keep themselves and their classrooms clean and safe. Students will also be supplied with supplies such as sanitizers and wipes. Each child will have his or her own supplies and learning materials that they won’t share with others. The district contracts with a professional cleaning company, ABM Industries, to keep schools clean. They have been given specific instruction as to how to clean buildings and playground equipment. Bus driver’s have been specially trained in how to clean their vehicles.

 

What about the cafeteria and meals? How will my child eat lunch?

 

Each school will be different depending on the layout and capacity of the school’s cafeteria. However, in general, “grab and go” lunches will be provided instead of the more elaborate hot lunch offerings. Students, traveling in cohorts or classroom groupings, may visit the cafeteria on a staggered basis to pick up their lunches, returning to the classroom to eat. Lunches may also be delivered to classrooms for consumption, depending on each school’s preference.

 

Will my child be playing sports this fall?

 

Some sports may be possible, and some have already returned and are practicing and getting athletes conditioned. Safe distancing guidelines are in place. Actual competitions or games may or may not be possible depending on the availability of other teams either within or outside the district. Each school, each coach and each student will be making individual decisions about playing depending on circumstances. Sports are, of course, not required and students and parents will have to make their own decisions about whether or not they feel safe participating.

 

What about daycare / after school care?

 

Daycare / after school care will be offered on a limited basis due to limited capacity at the schools. Parents should consult with their child’s school administration about this issue.

 

What if I don’t want my child to return to school immediately? Do I have to commit to a whole semester of virtual school?

 

Parents will have to make a commitment one way or the other by September 30th. The deadline was extended to allow extra time for parents to make a decision. In the meantime, if a parent does not wish their student to return to the classroom the week of the 14th, they should contact their child’s school to find out about their options.