JCPS hosted a virtual town hall to discuss their plans for in-person school Thursday evening. The discussion included information regarding what precautions students and faculty members must take throughout the school day, including rules about masks, bussing information and more clarification on the hybrid schedule.
Face masks will be required throughout the duration of the school day with the only exception being if the student or faculty member provides a medical waiver to the school. Although it is encouraged to bring your own mask, the district will have plenty of masks at each school in case a student forgets to bring their own. No student or staff may remove their masks unless they are eating or drinking. “There will be adequate health supplies and personal protective equipment available,” Manager of District Health, Eva Stone said.
“Every school at every building will have details on arrival and dismissal for return to school,” said Chief of Schools, Robert Moore. Upon arriving at school, each student and staff member will take temperature checks and will be provided with hand sanitizer. In the case that a student becomes ill during the school day, each school building will have a designated health and isolation room and students who develop a fever during the school day will not be transported home on the bus with other students. The common areas in the buildings will be marked for social distancing purposes and the amount of people in these common areas will be greatly reduced.
When it comes to which days students will return to school, JCPS middle and high school students will operate on a hybrid schedule, similar to private schools. The district is in the process of implanting ‘A’ and ‘B’ groups for this hybrid schedule, Group A including students with last names beginning in letters A-K and Group B letters K-Z. Group A will return to school on Mondays and Tuesdays; Wednesdays will be asynchronous as a day for deep cleaning; and Group B will return Thursdays and Fridays. In classrooms, desks will be separated 6 feet apart with the removal of non-essential furniture. If there isn’t not a six-foot space available in the classroom, desks will be separated as far as possible.
In the case that someone in the building comes in contact with COVID-19, students who were exposed to that person will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, while students who test positive will be out of school for ten days.
Employees who are diagnosed with COVID will be allowed to use their emergency COVID days to quarantine and can have an extension if they provide proper documentation.
JCPS provided schools with a plan for safe handling and disinfecting wheelchairs, walkers and other devices students use to go to or from school.
For students not comfortable with returning to in-person school, “Every JCPS school will offer both in-person classes as well as a virtual learning option. Through that option, virtual learning will be offered by JCPS teachers and Google Classroom will be used as the instructional learning platform,” Acting Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Carmen Colemen said.
Coleman announced that the virtual learning option will have similar assignments and will be standard-based. Teachers will accommodate students who decide to stay home for virtual learning as they aren’t able to do the same assignments as the students in the classroom.
Students who do opt out of in-person school and remain virtual will still be able to participate in after-school activities and sports.
“We want to be clear with families, this is the option that we can do safely and effectively based on state guidelines at this time and the number of kids in our schools,” JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio announced. “Every opportunity we have with a child face-to-face is a chance to change their life. And so six-weeks is pretty darn important to me, and I think it is critical that we give the opportunity to kids as soon as it is safe to do that.”
Students in the Manual community expressed their concerns for the back to school plan.
“I’m glad they are taking the precautions needed for COVID, but honestly I don’t know if it’s enough,” Ehthemoo Po (11, HSU) said. “I think the smartest thing would be to continue virtual learning for everyone for the rest of the year. I feel really bad for the seniors, but it took us so long to get used to NTI and throwing us back in the building for the remainder of the year would be confusing and not worth it.”
“I’m worried about the spread of COVID-19 if a student is asymptomatic and doesn’t realize, especially considering the amount of people that wear masks incorrectly,” Ava Weissman (10, HSU) said. “I’m also concerned about how the new protocol will restrict social interaction completely, as I feel like the lack of social interaction is harming students’ mental health.”
While many students have concerns about returning, they still see the positive sides of coming back to school after a year of NTI.
“I am excited to get to have in-person instruction, I feel like it’s been very bad for most students to focus on online and having in-person instruction will be much more beneficial,” Weissman said.
“It [in-person school] will provide a more structured school day and be able to do things we couldn’t do online,” Isaac Barnett (11, J&C) said. “For example, using the darkroom in my photography class.”
On the issues of mask wearing, many are hopeful in students to follow protocol to ensure the safety of those around them.
“I don’t think it [mask wearing] will be as big of a problem at Manual as it might be at some other JCPS schools,” Barnett said.
“I trust that the staff has been trained by JCPS to enforce social distancing guidelines,” Anna Carpenter (11, HSU) said. “The fact that we are going to try this type of schooling shows that the staff at Manual will enforce the rules.”
Pollio also expressed his confidence that each student will follow the guidelines the state has set for the district.