(Posted July 21, 2020)
Josephine Birdsell, Staff Writer
Madison-Plains school officials finalized plans for the return to school in the fall.
Families can choose between two options: students can attend school fully in-person, five days a week, or students can attend classes fully online.
The district developed the two options based on parent feedback, meetings with teacher leaders and meetings with administrators, as well as guidelines from Gov. Mike DeWine and Madison County Public Health, said Chad Eisler, superintendent.
Students who choose to attend school entirely online will complete coursework through the Jefferson County Virtual Learning Academy. Those students also will have regular check-ins with teachers to ensure they are meeting daily and weekly participation and attendance requirements.
Online students are required to supply their own Internet connection. The district encourages students to supply their own computers if possible, although the district has a limited number of Chromebooks to distribute to online students on a first-come, first-served basis. The district is working to purchase more computers for students, Eisler said.
The district is reviewing logistics to determine whether it will be able to provide meal access for students who choose to complete school online, Eisler said.
Many factors come into play when determining whether to conduct school online or in person, Eisler said, including meal access and the social and emotional benefits of in-person learning.
Students who choose to complete school in-person are required to meet health and safety guidelines. Those students are not permitted to come to school if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19, have a household member showing symptoms of COVID-19, have a household member diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been ordered to quarantine.
Students and guardians are expected to monitor the health and symptoms of those within their household. However, if there are confirmed cases within the county, Madison County Public Health will contact families to inform them if they must quarantine. The health department also will contact the school district with information on what students should not be at school, Eisler said.
While in school, all students and staff members are required to wear cloth face masks covering their nose, mouth and chin. Students who are exempt from wearing face masks due to pre-existing breathing conditions may wear a plastic face shield in place of a face mask. Students must have a doctor’s note to be exempt from wearing face masks. Students who refuse to wear face coverings are not allowed in school.
The district is also enforcing increased social distancing, using physical barriers and tape markings. Breakfast and lunch will be socially distanced, making use of school gymnasiums and classrooms to separate students. The district encourages students to bring their own meals from home, but the district will provide individually packaged breakfast and lunch options, as well.
The district is also enforcing social distancing on school busses whenever possible. No more than two students will be allowed in a single bus seat. Buses will mix outside air into the bus when possible. However, to better mitigate virus spread, the district encourages families to drive students to and from school and avoid carpooling when possible.
The district is limiting visitors in school to those who are “critically required.” Guardians must wait outside the school to pick up students.
Even with increased safety measures, virus spread is possible, so the district may switch to a blended approach with half of the student body in-person and half online on a rotating schedule or to an entirely online format for all students later in the year. The decision to switch to a blended or all-online format will be based on a variety of factors, including changes in guidelines from Madison County Public Health, teacher attendance, and overall risk levels state-wide, county-wide, and within the local community and school district, Eisler said.
“We are working as hard as we can to balance the health and safety of our students and staff while providing the best education we possibly can,” he said.
Families are required to commit to whether their student will attend school in-person or online by July 31. Families are committed to the option they choose for the entirety of the first semester, although they can choose a new option for the second semester beginning in December. Families can indicate the option of their choice by filling out a survey sent out by the district and found on the district website at mplsd.org.