The Bradley County Board of Education unanimously approved a framework for returning to schools Aug. 5 during their meeting Thursday. Following the state’s recommendation, the district is …
The Bradley County Board of Education unanimously approved a framework for returning to schools Aug. 5 during their meeting Thursday.
Following the state’s recommendation, the district is planning to return in-person for traditional school with modifications to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Also per the state’s recommendation, the district has planned for in-person classes, remote learning and a blended model of the two.
Prior to the return to school, a series of training videos published by the school district will allow students to see how new procedures will be done prior to the first day of school. The videos will also offer a bank of videos to reference later for substitutes and those who visit the school (by appointment only), Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash said.
Bradley County Schools’ “Continued Learning Plan” will mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within its schools by limiting movement and creating assigned seating in classrooms and on buses. Students will likely eat in their classrooms or have arranged seating in the cafeterias to create social distancing.
Cash indicated several times that a number of decisions will be made at the “building level” so principals and administrators may decide what suits their school at a given time.
Cash did, however, say that masks will not be required but “strongly recommended,” and that they may be required in instances where students and teachers cannot social distance.
The Continued Learning Plan also places emphasis on social and emotional well-being, according to Angie Gill Tuck, supervisor of data and assessment. Tuck, alongside Scotty Hernandez, director of safety, shared the plan with the board Thursday night.
Hernandez said that “teaching bell to bell” is still recommended, but he and Tuck encouraged teachers to set aside time for “social-emotional conversations” with their students and making time to sanitize and disinfect between class periods as a group.
“These kids have been through a lot,” Tuck said. “It will be a different world when they come back to school, and some may be apprehensive.”
The school district will be padding this strategy with professional development for teachers and staff to help “validate” students upon their return to school. Professional development and training will also be used to prepare students and teachers for remote learning in case of individual quarantine or a district-wide closure.
“Last spring, we were caught off guard, but this year we will be prepared,” Tuck said.
Cash clarified that students enrolled in Bradley County Virtual School will not be enrolled in a virtual school in the event that learning becomes remote, but those enrolled in the virtual school at the start of the year will be virtual students for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year regardless of COVID-19 conditions.
Administrators said remote learning will be “new and improved from last spring” due to an investment in a new online academic platform called Schoology, the launch of which is managed by Technology Director Scott Webb.
Thanks to CARES Act funding, classrooms will be supplied with disinfectants, masks and wipe, as well as sanitizer.
Hernandez said daily sanitizing procedures will be enhanced by deep-cleaning methods using fog machines and industrial sprayers every Friday after dismissal. The cleaning team will use tools designed to measure the quantity of bacteria on any given surface to test the effectiveness of sanitation, too, Hernandez said.
Buses will be disinfected using similar methods and bus windows will be kept open, weather-permitting, to allow the flow of fresh air, “because we know fresh air is a good thing,” Hernandez said.
Assigned seats will also be enforced on buses, and parent-provided transportation is encouraged to minimize the number of students loading on and off the school bus.
The administration is also encouraging parents to screen their children and taking temperatures before school each morning. Hernandez said taking temperatures of each student at the door would not only eat up a lot of time, but also risk large group gatherings as students are eager to get inside the building. He said nurses will do “visual checks” and take temperatures of students who do not look well during the school day.
Teachers, however, will be screened upon entering the building.
He added that sick students may be sent to school with “Tylenol in their system” that may mitigate fever despite a present illness.
Finally, cases that are found at the school may not be reported to parents. The health department is responsible for contact tracing, so students who are determined at-risk according to the assigned seating charts will be contacted by the health department when another student in their cohort has tested positive for COVID-19, and likewise for the teachers of those cohorts.
Tuck and Hernandez warned that divulging names and any personal information risks a HIPPA violation.
Hernandez said these are crisis plans, but a crisis “doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”
“We've wrapped our crisis-management concepts around removing as much risk and uncertainty as possible to create opportunities for success,” he said. “We will continue to strive to be agile and adaptive leaders, agile enough not to be so rigid that we can't come up with new plans and adaptive enough where we're focusing on the right things, and still remaining functional as our situation changes.”
Administrators said the Continued Learning Plan is a “living, breathing document” that is subject to change as more knowledge becomes available.
Changes to the plan will be brought before the board for a vote in the future. Updates to the Continued Learning Plan and more information can be found at BradleySchools.org, and a full video of the meeting in which the plan was presented can be viewed via the district’s YouTube channel.
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