Yes, Fayette parents and students, a new school year is coming, so prepare for some big changes. The Fayette County Board of Education on June 15 voted to have the 2020-2021 school year begin on Aug. 10. That said, there continues to be numerous issues to resolve relating to how the opening will occur.
Superintendent Jody Barrow requested that teachers be given 10 pre-planning days beginning on July 27 and running through Aug. 7. He also recommended, and the board approved on a 5-0 vote, the school year start date of Aug. 10.
Though the opening date was set, there continues to be a large number of variables to be decided before the opening occurs. Those items are in the planning stages, with Barrow saying a large number of teachers, parents and community members are involved in that planning.
“I hope folks will be patient with us,” Barrow said, adding that the various components of the opening, with input from all stakeholders, will be available as soon as possible. Portions of the opening plans could be complete in the coming days.
Barrow in his comments on June 15 noted the reasons for requesting extended pre-planning for teachers and the opening of schools. Those were:
• Staff orientation on Covid-19 prevention protocols for the classroom and the school environment at large
• Schoology (social networking service and virtual learning) training
• Professional learning to support a virtual instructional setting
• Professional learning to support a hybrid instructional setting
• Completion of schedules and staff re-classifications
• Meetings for students with special needs whose annual reviews were delayed during school closures
• Continuation of psychological evaluations and reevaluations, which were interrupted by school closures
• Virtual Meet the Teacher and Open House events
• Orientation meetings for parents and students choosing the full time virtual instructional setting
• Special needs placement meetings for students with disabilities who apply for the full-time virtual school
• Face-to-face graduation/senior weekend planning and implementation for the Class of 2020, who have so far received only a virtual graduation ceremony. The in-person graduation would presumably be held on Aug. 1 unless there is a substantial increase in Covid-19 cases.
As previously noted by the school system, there remains a host of issues related to reopening schools that remain to be decided or implemented. Those included, but are not limited to:
1) We need multiple options (planning for short and longer-term options with 12-24 month plans).
2) Monthly plan (rolling closures).
3) New CDC guidelines for reopening schools.
4) Wear masks over the age of 2.
5) No sharing of any items or supplies, all belongings in individual cubbies or labeled containers; no sharing electronic devices, toys, games or learning aids.
6) Desks six feet apart, all facing the same way.
7) The distance on school buses — one child per seat, skip rows.
8) Install sneeze guards and partitions wherever you cannot space six feet apart.
9) One-way routes in hallways; tape on sidewalks and walls to assure kids stay six feet apart.
10) No communal shared spaces — cafeterias, playgrounds.
11) Physical barriers or screens between sinks in bathrooms.
12) Only pre-packages boxes or bags of food instead of cafeteria food; kids eat in classrooms.
13) No field trips, assemblies, or external organizations in the schools. Limit volunteers and visitors.
14) The same children stay with the same staff all day, with minimum switching groups or teachers.
15) Stagger arrival and departure times for students to limit exposure to crowds of students.
16) If possible, daily health and temperature checks.
17) And several rules about cleaning and disinfecting throughout the day and handwashing frequently.
So far, school officials have not announced which of the above will be implemented in part or in full, and which will be either modified, postponed or discarded.