After the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the spring semester, the Monroe County School System is currently developing several plans to start the next school year.
The school board is drafting multiple plans for different scenarios in order to make sure they can continue to develop students’ education regardless of any COVID-19 situation.
According to Director of Schools DeAnna McClendon, four scenarios have already been drafted as well as variations of each scenario to allow flexibility as well as the ability to switch between plans should the need arise.
The first scenario is to reopen the schools with 100% in-person learning without physical distancing or other public health strategies.
The second scenario is similar, with 100% in-person learning however it will focus on social distancing and other health recommendations.
The third scenario will focus on reopening the schools with a combination of in-person and distance learning, which will occur with the in-person learning taking place at the school while practicing social distancing and online extended distance learning.
The last scenario they have currently drafted will be to extend the online education with a revised approach that will build upon the strengths of the current distance learning approach and attempt to make good use of opportunities for improvement.
They hope to organize the scenarios to be flexible enough that the plans could be interchangeable to reflect any necessity of conditions that may arise after the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
A list of items are guiding the development of the strategies.
The list includes: student and teacher schedules (including the amount of time in live, interactive, face-to-face “synchronous” distance learning); serving the needs of students with disabilities and those learning english; the social-emotional needs of students and adults; assessment and grading; cleaning protocols; and enhanced 100% distance learning options for parents who choose not to send students back to school, even if Monroe County Schools is offering in-person learning.
Their plans will be based on feedback from five stakeholder groups along with “evolving” information in order to work towards a detailed plan for the start of the new school year.
“We recognize that the way in which we start the new school year will have major implications for students, parents, staff members, employers and the broader community,” McClendon said in an email to The Advocate & Democrat. “For example, imagine the scenario in which we might reopen schools with a combination of in-person and distance learning. The need for physical distancing and other public health strategies in this scenario would affect many aspects of school operations, including: the number of students that can be present in a classroom or a school at any one time; bus transportation; procedures for entering school, moving within schools and departing schools; and meal service within schools.”
Another example she gave was if they reopened school with the combination of in-person and distance learning, that would allow a limited to number of students to physically attend the school (per school day) while others continue their studies online.
She noted that she would also be looking out for the current CDC recommendations during the time the schools are scheduled to reopen.
“We all know the CDC produced guidelines but I don’t think they have any teachers on their task force,” McClendon stated. “I don’t know if there is a plan that anyone can develop to address concerns, but I will be looking at those recommendations along with what and how I can follow.”
The school board also plans to receive information from a group of citizens (staff and parents) as the new school session approaches.
“Moving ahead, in early June, we will solicit feedback from a variety of internal and external stakeholders to inform the ongoing revisions and enhancements to our scenario plans. We will conduct focus groups with multiple parents, employees and community groups,” said McClendon. “Planning groups will develop new plans to address requirements not previously considered. In every case, we will evaluate scenarios and plans for viability and safety. Throughout the process, the school board will review our work, while also revising policies and allocating resources, as needed, to support success.”
The school board currently has plans to update the community by the beginning of July regarding their future plans for the new school year, which is scheduled to start on Aug. 7.
“It is an understatement to say that this is a difficult situation for every member of our community. With that in mind, our commitment to community care includes continuing to work to meet the academic, physical health and mental wellness needs of our students,” McClendon said. “Community care also involves striving to help parents, employees and the broader community thrive, not just endure, as we meet our challenges. We will be Monroe Strong for the new school year. Right now we have more questions than answers and we just have to build our plan to be as flexible as possible, but we will have to ask for a lot of grace and mercy from employees and parents as we figure this out.”