‘Mock First Day’ for Fayette schools shows virus preparations

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Classrooms for younger students will be tables with seating for two and shields installed between them. Photo/Ben Nelms.
Classrooms for younger students will be tables with seating for two and shields installed between them. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Fayette County public schools will re-open on Aug. 17. As a way of showing the preparedness awaiting students, the school system on Aug. 11 held a “Mock First Day” at Inman Elementary School southeast of Fayetteville.

With more than 20,000 students in the school system, the majority will begin the school year on the hybrid schedule where half of students will attend two days per week, with the other half attending two other days.

Even when school starts there will still be plenty of students not present in classrooms. Case in point, it was announced at the school board meeting earlier in the week that 6,000 students, approximately 30 percent, will attend school virtually this school year.

But for those who will attend, the Mock First Day provided a glimpse of what students and parents at all schools can expect inside and outside the school buildings.

With adults playing the role of students, and with school staff as themselves, the mock event covered the school day, beginning with arrival at school, breakfast and lunch time, hallway changes, the new look of classrooms and students’ departures in the afternoon.

A sampling of the precautions and preparedness at all schools goes like this:

<b>Signs in Fayette County public school hallways will display health and safety precautions. Photo/Ben Nelms.</b>
Signs in Fayette County public school hallways will display health and safety precautions. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Outside the school as parents drop off their children or as they arrive in buses, staff will greet the children and have them enter the school using social distancing. Parents who drop off their kids beginning next week will be asked to remain in their cars.

For breakfast and lunch, students will enter one cafeteria door and exit the other, using floor markers to keep a social distance in line to get their meal. Students will pay for their meals using a no-touch card system to make the purchase.

<b>Cafeteria tables will be arranged so that students can eat while keeping a social distance. Photo/Ben Nelms.</b>
Cafeteria tables will be arranged so that students can eat while keeping a social distance. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Grades will alternate each day to remain in the cafeteria to eat, and will be spread out to keep a social distance. Staff will direct students to a lunch table, with those seating areas prearranged to accommodate social distancing. When exiting, students will again line-up using floor markers to ensure a proper distance between them.

The other grades not eating in the cafeteria that day will use a “grab and go” method to take their meals back to the classroom.

In the classroom, students will be met with a number of precautions. For those in the lower grades, tables will accommodate two students and a shield will be installed between the two to serve as a barrier. The youngest students will have their supply kits separated on a shelf and placed on the table for them.

Classrooms with desks will have them spaced appropriately to ensure distancing.

<b>Fayette classrooms with desks will have them separated for social distancing. Photo/Ben Nelms.</b>
Fayette classrooms with desks will have them separated for social distancing. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Teachers will wear face shields and will clean tables, chairs and other surfaces throughout the day. And chairs will be assigned and will be labeled with the child’s name.

In hallways, social distancing tabs will be found throughout the building. Custodians will wipe down door handles and hallway surfaces throughout the day, and hand sanitizer stations will be set-up around the building.

Also in hallways throughout each building, signs are posted on the walls reminding students to wear a mask, keep a physical distance, wash hands, cover mouths when coughing and notify a teacher if they feel bad.

At the end of the day, students will be called to assemble in the gym and will stand on dots provided on the floor. While in the gym, siblings can find each other prior to leaving for the day.

For those students being picked-up by a parent, staff will escort students to their parent’s vehicle.

For those riding the bus, students will go to the bus loop keeping a social distance, with younger kids entering the bus first. Once on the bus, siblings can sit together and all will have assigned seating.

To minimize contact, the standard 73-passenger buses will transport 48 students to and from school.

School is set to start on Monday. And for those students attending, it will be unlike anything those returning this year have ever seen.

For staff, it is a whole new world, one in which they have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of all, in and outside the building. Though nothing in life is fool-proof, school staff and administrators really do deserve thanks for going far beyond the extra mile.

For more information contact your child’s school or visit www.fcboe.org