By Charlie Feldman
The Triad School Board voted to give the superintendent the authority to make all COVID-19 related decisions regarding reopening and closing the schools and its programs and activities during its Monday, July 27 meeting.
Superintendent Leigh Lewis’ first decision was to implement Plan A for kindergarten through sixth grade and Plan B for middle and high school students. Parents still have the option to choose the remote learning full time for their student with those plans.
“We have to make decisions about what’s best for kids,” Lewis said. “And we’ve got some kids that need to be in school.”
Plan A, Lewis said, is five days a week in-person learning with safety measures in place, health screening, an emphasis on practicing good hygiene, everyone in the building – staff, students – wearing masks and social distancing inside and outside. Increasing daily cleaning, limiting groups to no more than 50, being cautious and limiting the number of students in one area. No visitors inside the school building, she said. “That is one of our mitigation strategies that would be in place in Plan A and Plan B,” Lewis said.
The academic day at all elementary schools will begin at 8:50 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. All elementary students will eat lunch at school. It will be a box lunch eaten with their class, followed by an outdoor activity.
The first six days will be on an alternate schedule – divided up into the same alphabetic strategy the district will use for Plan B – grades 7-12 – so families could go on the same days. This will help the district to ease into the new procedures, including bus routes.
Beyond the Bell services will be available from 6:30 a.m. until the beginning of school and after school until 6 p.m.
In Plan B, she said, the middle school and high school students are following a different, compacted blended learning schedule where they come to class every other day and learn from home on the alternate days with all students being off on Wednesdays. This makes class sizes smaller and will reduces contact on a daily basis, she said.
Students will attend six academic classes every day for periods of 40 to 45 minutes They would not be eating lunch at school – a grab and go lunch they can take with them may be provided – unless they were identified as part of a group that was staying because they have activities or plans to be there for a particular reason and then the district would have to provide lunch and adult supervision. Spaces and instructors will be available for those students who need to stay to participate in band, tutoring, athletics or other extracurricular activities. Teachers will be available during designated times in the afternoon to work with small groups of students in-person or remotely.
The academic day at Triad Middle School will begin at 7:45 a.m. and end at 12:15 p.m. The academic day at Triad High School will begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m.
“It is about safety to start the year,” Lewis said, explaining why she chose Plan B over A. “I hope we can change. I don’t know if that will be first semester. But anytime we can move back certainly we can discuss that depending how we’re doing as a region and a district and we’re going to make that decision. “Students that go five days a week should be our most at-risk population. Those are the kids that we would look at first if we’re going to bring back kids for five days a week in a Plan B situation,” she said.
The district will include in its comprehensive Return to School Plan staggered arrival and dismissal schedules that include bus transportation, vehicle transport and student drivers.
“We want students to be able to continue their education in the safest way possible while providing opportunities for them to make connections with their classmates and teachers throughout this school year,” wrote superintendent Leigh Lewis in her report to the board.
While all schools will attempt to offer as many courses as possible via remote learning, some courses may not be able to be taught virtually.
Things Will Change
The campuses will look different inside and out. Here are several changes that staff, students and parents can expect:
• smaller in-person class sizes.
• social distancing in the classroom, on the buses, during outdoor activities and in common areas.
• limited number of students on a bus during a route – no more than 50.
• all persons will be wearing a face covering “mask” on the bus and inside the school building. In some instances, face shields and other protective gear will be used in combination with masks.
• frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing will be done or scheduled at the lower levels.
• outside hand washing stations and big tents will be utilized.
• lessons on good hygiene will be delivered.
• facilities will follow a rigorous cleaning schedule throughout the school day, in the evenings and beyond in order to clean high touch surfaces frequently and deep cleaning on the weekends.
This and more data is viewable on the district’s website.
Authority Of One
Because the challenges presented by the pandemic are uncertain, unpredictable and ever-changing, the board wanted to provide the superintendent with reasonable direction regarding the reopening of schools and also the maximum flexibility to do so.
The resolution it passed gives her the authority to:
• develop plans and procedures for in-person, remote and blended remote learning and/or e-learning for the 2020/21 school year and to periodically inform the board of education of their development, amendment and implementation.
• implement remote/e-learning programs for all students, groups of students or individual students at any time she deems necessary in order to respond to the health and safety needs of students if the school district authorizes in-person learning programs.
• determine which extracurricular, co-curricular and interscholastic activities and sports will be offered to students, set the terms under which students may participate and decide whether to discontinue any activity once it has commenced after reporting that decision to the board president.
• suspend any resolutions or policies that conflict with this action to the extent necessary to implement her learning plans. But the board may take action to undo that suspension.
This resolution expires at the completion of summer school/extended school year in 2021 unless earlier modified or terminated by the board of education.
Budget Hearing Scheduled
In other action, the board approved a September 28 date for the public hearing on the fiscal year 2021 budget.
Last year’s budget at year-end had a grand total revenue of $47,053,194.68, a grand total expense of $46,445,887.71 and a grand total surplus of $607,306.97
A copy of this year’s tentative budget will be on public display at the Triad Central Office at least 30 days before that date.
Also, the district has received three new gasoline buses. They are all ready and waiting to transport students, according to operations director Lon Henke.