Leon County Schools Re-opening Task Force presenting final draft of return-to-class recommendations

Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Leon County Schools Re-opening Task Force presented its final draft of recommendations on Tuesday to welcome students back this fall.

On Wednesday, the school board will decide on guidelines and present them in a three-page document. Then, parents will have until July 13 to choose between traditional in-school learning or continue with online learning for their kids. They can cast their vote through the FOCUS portal.

The meeting began with a public comment portion. Many parents said they want more time to make a decision for their child’s education format. 19 comments were made, with 14 of them saying they do not want masks in classrooms, and one saying they need the masks. Many said they agree with having it during transitions and on buses, just not the whole day. Those that commented say changing classroom arrangement is preferred.

Tuesday marked 41 days until the start of school on August 10. Superintendent Rocky Hanna shared that they need to come to a consensus to give parents those options quickly, and come to answers, concisely.

Listed below were the Task Force Recommendations and Guidelines for the School Board:

Health and Safety

Need to clearly define and develop procedure for mask-wearing for both students and teachers. Specific protocol about mandatory mask usage when social distancing is not possible.

Rosanne Wood stated that many teachers were concerned about coming back to work. She believes masks should be worn when you are closer than six feet, but exemptions should be made for younger children. She also believes parents and teachers must sign an agreement, accepting those rules.

Alva Striplin chimed in, asking to designate four different age groups. She also raised the question if Plexiglass was something that was being considered? Chair Dee-Dee Rasmussen says they need to do everything to have the students feel safe and not have them feel hampered. That is when Superintendent Hanna suggested mask breaks or mask free zones. He says they have to get as creative as we can.

Sickness Protocols

Clear written protocols on what to do when sickness occurs both in or out of school, and how to avoid bringing sickness on campus. Includes isolation, transport, and car.

Board member Striplin wants to include a portion that concerns students who live in a household that has someone who has contracted Covid-19 and what their protocols should be, and whether to not they should be allowed to return to school.

Sanitation Ventilation

Clearly written protocol for cleaning, disinfection and sanitation as well as cleaning protocols.

Mental Health Concerns

Regular mental health screenings and services should be available to all students and staff and re-open plans should include for an extension of and increased need for mental health services

Space and social distancing

Clear expectations for what defines social distancing should be mandated and should include considerations for restrictions caused by class and building size and well as transitions and seating arrangements.

This talking point took more than 30 minutes to address. After a lot of back and forth, the board ultimately came to a consensus that ultimately social distancing will be decided once they have feedback from parents as to what format their child will be furthering their education.

Staffing and personnel capacity

Increasing staff whenever possible to account for absences and interruptions that may occur. Includes substitute teaches, even pairing them.

Board member Wood suggested an amplification system for teachers because they will be wearing a mask.

Food service equity

Options for equitable food services should be accounted for in regards to those digital learning

Traffic minimization

Clear protocols for traffic should be implemented to reduce movement. movement should be restricted between classes. Protocols should be driven to achieve equitable measures of safety across school sites and staff groups.

Student Activities and Extracurriculars

CDC guidelines for safety should be reviewed and clear protocols and expectations should be written for student activities and extracurricular.

Temperature Check protocols

Protocols should be well defined and written.

Academic Services Summary
Educational Quality and Equity

Measures taken to ensure that students at schools with high-needs populations receive an equitable educational experience, particularly in regard to digital academies. (Device distribution, existing achievement gaps and gaps including COVID-19)

A task force member, Marie-Claire Leman, furthered, “When we introduce choice...we want to be extra cautious in making sure that everyone can avail themselves of that choice. And we want the district to be careful so that once you have chosen one of the options that that experience is still equitable.”

Professional Learning

Teachers, staff, administrators, parents, volunteer and mentors, substitute teachers and students will need extra services to enhance learning and capabilities with increased technology and virtual instruction, especially Title I.

Safety and Well Being Education

Students are equitably educated about the dangers of COVID-19 and the measures the school system is implementing. Student awareness of risks and precautions taken for prevention and care.

Teacher and Special Area Support

Plans to accommodate needs of teachers with the increased workload and learning needed to implement the planned changes and published asap. Considerations to services for ELL and ESE students and preschool. Example of adjustments to staffing

Scheduling, Parent Options and Commitment to Options

School district needs to provide clarified explanations of school formatting options for parents and accelerate the timeline for making choices for concrete planning for the 20-21 school year. A concrete picture of what each learning option would look like is needed so that informed choices can be made.

On Thursday, Hanna stated that there will be a Facebook Live taking an in-depth look into the course offerings for online classes including electives and split schedules.

Board member Darryl Jones was concerned for the foreign language students, and it was assured to him that they have been furthering their studies through the summer. Superintendent Hanna said that once parents decide on what their child’s learning will be (online or in-person), you have to stick with it. There are no plans for the students to jump back and forth, but they can come back after school for after school activities.

Internet Access

Clear and concrete knowledge of the internet and technology capabilities of all students and teachers outside of school to best address needs in this area,

Thresholds for safety

Clear plan and public announcement is needed to determine events or thresholds which would result in changes to schooling options discussed

Community and Workforce Development
Volunteering Virtually

How can volunteering and mentoring be conducted in a virtual environment?

Technology and Internet Accessibility

District needs to determine that all sources of funding and preparation have been explored (including charitable giving from institutions). This includes accounting for access to and repair for devices, internet accessibility and capability for remote learning

Safety and Minimization of Contact

Services that would expose students or staff to outside visitors and increase the likelihood of exposure need to be limited or halted.

Board member Joy Bowen asked if parents can still have lunch with their kids. The task force said that this has to be looked into; Chair Rasmussen says they may have to reconsider for the younger children, as they may need their parents. Striplin shared that parents are sometimes essential to some schools to help with little things.

Increased Business Partnerships

Partnerships with business and philanthropic endeavors should be reviewed to make sure potential is being maximized for the ‘high-need’ populations

Equity for Title I schools

Title I and district funding should be prioritized to accelerate learning and address achievement gaps that may be impacted by COVID-19.

Lively College Specific Comments

The of Lively to recruit and educate students should be monitored regularly to fulfill workforce

Student and Instructional Experience

Needs of all students for volunteering opportunities for scholarships, career and industry certification. If they can volunteer following CDC guidelines that should be accommodated.

After the four-hour presentation, task force member Henry Lewis recommended changing the start date of school because Chromebooks have not yet arrived and it will take time for students to adjust. Superintendent says that he may consider pushing school back.

Hanna says that a three-chapter book will be pushed out on Wednesday during his Facebook Live at 6 p.m. He says it is a very living document.

On July 2, there will be another Facebook Live that will have more input of classes. Parents will have change to digest and then declare their intentions for the school year anytime before the 13th.

Superintendent Hanna added, “We are not making decisions for the rest of our lives we are just trying to get to winter break. Right? Trying to open school and get through winter break.”

He says if things significantly change, then they made need an extra two weeks and push the start date back, but right now they are taking it step by step.

You can see Tuesday’s meeting below.

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