The hallways and classrooms of our schools will remain empty a little bit longer than expected only a week ago. In the Governor’s July 23 Covid-19 announcements, a change in the school reopening guidance pushed back the earliest allowed start date for in-school instruction for public and charter K-12 schools to September 8, the day after Labor Day.

Our local district’s plan, as it now stands, is to still for our students to begin our school year on Monday, August 10. During that week, teachers will host remote “welcome” meetings with all their classes and conduct “wellness check-ins.” Teachers will call all families of students who are not in attendance at the welcome meetings. At the meetings teachers and students will review course syllabi, classroom expectations, supply lists, and how to navigate the Schoology learning management system. They will also review district safety protocols and expectations, technology use agreements and other necessary pre-instruction information.

The following week starting Monday, August 17, instruction will begin for all grades, K-12, using Schoology, with students in a 100 percent remote instruction model. The hybrid plan adopted by the district, outlined in last week’s Sentinel, was designed to allow for a seamless transition between hybrid, two-day in school instruction and full 100 percent remote education. It also was designed to easily move to a full attendance, in-school model.

At this time, once in-school instruction begins, health safety protocols will be in place. Facemasks and maintaining a physical distance will be required of students and staff. With the student body split into two groups, alphabetically by last name, in-school attendance will be limited to two days per week, either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, lessons will be performed in each class on the Schoology system, where all lessons will be found.

Buses will run their normal routes but will be limited to a 35-student capacity. Face masks or shields are to be worn when on the bus and temperature checks will be performed before a student gets on the bus. If a temperature over 100.4 is recorded, the student will be kept home. Parents are urged to keep their student home if they are ill, regardless of temperature. Hot Springs high students will still be allowed to leave the campus at lunch, but those doing so will need to be screened again on their return to school.

 Accommodation will be made for all students who have chosen to do all instruction by 100 percent remote to allow them to do so. The NMAA, in their most recent guidelines, have said students choosing this option will still be eligible for sports and activities.

Family members and other visitors will be restricted to the office area and are asked to come to school for emergencies only. All those entering the school must wear a facemask or face shield before entering the building and will need to check in and out at the front office. When picking up or dropping off a student, family must do so outside the school building.

On playgrounds and outdoors common areas, masks/shields must be worn, and distancing maintained. No sharing of balls, toys or equipment will be allowed. Students will be asked to wash hands or use hand sterilizer on arriving at school, as well as before and after lunch and recess.

We asked schools’ Superintendent, Dr Channell Segura, a few questions we had heard over the past few days.

Q. There are digital devices on order for all students, an iPad for all pre-K and Kinder students, and a laptop for grades 1-12. When do we expect delivery of those? Do we have a date yet?

A. Our iPads for our littlest, are in transit now. Our laptop order was delayed due to high demand. We hope to receive them within the next 10 days.

Q. Do we have a plan in case devices are not received by district by the time students and teachers need them to start the school year?

A. Teachers will focus on developing their lessons in Schoology. Students can download material and complete when they can. We will have extended due dates for assignments until all students have their digital devices.

Q. Will there be training in Schoology available for parent/guardians?

A. We’ve found Schoology to be very user friendly. Principals will be sending a letter home for parents to be able to access their children’s Schoology accounts. There are also comprehensive parent resources on their website.

Q. Does Schoology record student attendance and do students need to be in attendance at specific times? If so, we had heard a few specific concerns regarding this.

1. Students who are in day care or otherwise unable to access consistently at the assigned time, with parental obligations or other factors making this difficult.

2. Multiple students in the same household that makes logging on at the same time difficult or impossible, due to internet access limitations.

3. Or basically... Will 24-7 access for remote instruction and attendance be provided for?

A. We are currently working on a remote attendance policy to address these issues.

Q. Are multiple options being looked at to provide internet access for students, either those living in geographic areas not well served or in households that lack any access due to expense?

A. We are partnering with an organization that is providing free routers to us that will be placed in school parking lots for students to be able to access internet to work or download their work. Unfortunately, there is no broadband in our remote areas, which is a huge issue that our state needs to urgently address.

Q. Are there still devices the school already owned that were signed out to students during spring and summer?

A. I believe the high school has collected all the laptops used for summer school.

Q. Has there been feedback from parents or faculty regarding the change of plan, to a later start of the hybrid model?

A. Guidance from the state and other entities keep changing. We are maintaining alignment with the guidelines and informing families of updates via our website, Facebook page, robocalls and the local newspaper and radio.

Q. Have there been other modifications needed/planned, due to the new timetable for any in-school instruction?

A. We plan to bring back our pre-K through 3rd grade students on our district’s chosen hybrid model starting on August 17th. After Labor Day, we plan to follow the expectations outlined by the state to get our other students back who originally wanted to be a part of the hybrid model. Those who requested virtual/remote will continue with that model.

Q. Thank you Dr. Segura

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