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Home Features Back to school: A roadmap for getting students back into the classroom

Back to school: A roadmap for getting students back into the classroom

With the start of school just around the corner, educators and families across the county are aware that the 2020-2021 school year will be anything but normal. Debate has surrounded the way that administrators have planned to open schools. Political leaders like President Donald Trump and the US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are encouraging all schools to open their buildings to students over the next several weeks. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is allowing local school systems to submit their ideas for reopening to the state for approval. Both the Oneida Special School District and the Scott County School System reached out to the community over the summer and asked anyone who was interested to complete a survey about the start of school in August. Both school systems have designed plans to implement a safe start to the new school year. Each plan must be approved by the TN Dept. of Education and the state health department. All policies and procedures that are in the plans are subject to change.

Oneida Special School District

The Oneida Special School District is planning to offer two options for students who will be returning to school in the fall. One of those options is an in person learning experience, while the other option is virtual.

Students who choose to return to class in a traditional format will begin classes on August 6. The district has put several safety measures in place with the well-being of students, faculty, staff, and parents in mind. Daily temperature checks will occur for each student. All commonly-touched surfaces will be sanitized throughout the school day. The number of visitors allowed into the schools will be limited. Social distancing will be practiced when it is possible, and the gathering of large groups will be limited. Although masks will not be required, all students will be strongly encouraged to wear them. The system has received cloth masks for all students through the Tennessee Emergency Management Association (TEMA).

In the virtual school option, students will complete their instruction online using Google Classrooms. These classrooms will be facilitated by OSSD teachers. All students participating in this option will be required to attend Zoom meetings and complete daily assignments for each class they are enrolled in. Any student who wants to choose the virtual option must contact their child’s school during the week of July 20. Parents and students will be required to attend an orientation during the week of August 10 to familiarize themselves with the online learning platform and complete necessary paperwork. The virtual education program will begin classes on August 17.

Once the OSSD plan is approved by the Dept. of Education and the Tennessee Dept.  of Health, more details will be released to the public. The safety and health of students and staff will be at the forefront of the plan. Upon approval, the school system will go more in-depth about measures that will be taken to ensure that all school facilities are cleaned and sanitized.

The OSSD is currently working on a website to provide families with additional reopening information. The website can be found by visiting www.oneidaschools.org under the resources tab.

Scott County School District

In the Scott County School District’s framework for the reopening of schools, the district notes that the goal is to create a plan “for school re-entry that fosters the overall health of children, staff, and community”. The school system will have two options for students to begin the school year: an in-school option and an at-home learning option.

For families who choose the in-school learning option, the first week of school will be a phase-in to allow the schools to familiarize the students with the health and safety procedures that will be put into place for the upcoming school year. August 10 will be a phase-in day for grades 1, 5, and 9. The week will continue with grades 2, 6, and 10 attending on August 11. Grades 3, 7, and 11 will be in class August 12, and grades 4, 8, and 12 will attend school on August 13. The first day for all students in grades 1-12 will be Monday, August 17.

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Upon arrival at school, all students will have their temperatures checked. Any student who has a fever of 100.4 or higher will not be allowed to attend school. For students who ride the bus, masks or other face coverings must be worn and hand sanitizer will be available as students load the school bus. All students are encouraged to wear a face mask as they enter the school building, especially in areas such as cafeterias or gymnasiums. The use of these common spaces will be minimized as much as possible. Classrooms will be arranged in a way that maximizes student seating, and sanitation stations will be available in each classroom.

For students who are considered at-risk or have special circumstances, the at-home learning option will be made available. Students who choose this option must complete the at-home learning form that is linked to the scottcounty.net homepage. Daily online access will be required for instruction for all students who choose this option. Laptops will be available for students to check out, and courses will be overseen by certified SCSD teachers. A mandatory meeting will be held in August for all students and families who choose to begin the school year using the online option.

Not Set in Stone

With changes happening in the county daily, it is important to note that the frameworks that are being presented by both school systems are subject to change. However, both systems are focused on the safety of the students and staff members, as well as providing a quality education. Public school funding is largely based on the enrollment of students in a school, so the ability to provide a virtual learning experience will allow local school systems to continue to receive funding to educate the students in the community.

For more information, contact the Oneida Special School District at 569-8912 or the Scott County School System at 663-2159.

This story is the July 2020 installment of Focus On: Education, presented by S.T.A.N.D. on the third week of each month as part of the Independent Herald’s Focus series. A print version of this article can be found on Page 3 of the July 16, 2020 edition of the Independent Herald.
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Melanie Garrett
Melanie Garrett is a 2nd grade teacher at Burchfield Elementary School. She completed her Bachelors at Tennessee Tech and Masters at University of the Cumberlands.
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