By Chance Chamberlain
Back to school in 2020 looks different from years past as students return after an extended hiatus to a new normal in the classroom.
Cass County school districts have released their plans for re-entry, many of which involve similar protocol for daily procedures and for increased precaution in case of emergency.
Masks are an additional school supply this semester as districts require them for bus riders and for activity that takes place outside of the classroom.
Parents are encouraged to drop-off and pick-up their students at school to help reduce the chances of contamination among students and there will be a reduced number of students allowed on the bus at one time, so there is minimal contact.
Students at each school are asked to bring their own water bottles because water fountains will not be available this semester. Lunchrooms will include staggered shifts to reduce the number of students in the cafeteria and students will be asked to sit with members of their class each day.
School nurses will keep logs of sick students and files will remain confidential, although COVID numbers may be reported to county health departments. Classes will provide seating charts after the first day of class in case of exposure so tracing protocols can be followed accurately.
Midway, Drexel and Sherwood produced a Green, Yellow and Red scale for their re-entry plan. Each color represents a different degree of precautionary measures with Red representing a school closure with distance learning in place taught by a district educator via Google Classroom.
The Green phase of re-entry represents an open and operational school district and is where each of the three schools plans to open. This phase means there are fewer limitations in place for students, but sanitization and cleaning protocols will be followed as instructed by the Cass County Health Department.
Yellow phase switches up the program a little bit with a partial district closure and limitations on the number of students withing a building at one time. This phase will include strict social distancing guidelines throughout the school day and will split up classes into an A and B group. The A group will attend school two days in a row followed by a deep cleaning day with no students in the building. The B group will conclude the week with two days of class in a row. Yellow phase will also include hybrid learning where students will complete class work online via Google Classroom.
Midway, Drexel and Sherwood also recommend checking for symptoms including a temperature check, before sending a child to school each day. The districts are limiting visitors and are requiring administration approval before entry can be granted. Students, faculty and staff are requested to bring face coverings each day to school and social distancing will be encouraged unless it cannot be accommodated.
Archie’s plan for re-entry includes masking when not in the classroom and when social distancing is not possible. The district prohibits entry to the school before the doors open at 7:50 a.m. and discourages congregation of students in the building.
Students in grades kindergarten through 12 will be taught via Google Classroom during the first few weeks of school and each student will be sent home with a Chromebook and charger daily in grades three through 12.
The district will issue new arrival, dismissal and cafeteria protocols as well as altered recess to accommodate for reduced contact.
All area schools have included increased levels of sanitization by offering hand sanitizer in each classroom and by providing increased cleaning measures by the custodial workers.
Each district is offering a virtual option that once selected, will be a semester long commitment. Virtual learning does not affect attendance and junior high and high school students may participate in sports and vo-tech classes with no penalty.
Full documentation of back to school protocol can be found by visiting school district websites. Protocols are subject to change as new information arises.