By: The PHS Administration team
We are within a month of the day most everyone has been anticipating for months...a resumption of school and the “normalcy” of a routine for school-age children and school leaders.
Your administrative team has been meeting at least weekly since mid-March trying to digest the incessant flow of information on best/safest practice for conducting school business and providing the experiences that are an integral part of school for kids ages 4-19.
There are no less than 5 layers of “authority” over school business that we listen to and we’ve received more fancy color coded 50-page “reopening plan” guidelines than can be counted on one hand. It’s not been easy. Every path has been fraught with roadblocks and every potential solution has created more problems. While this has been the most frustrating problem-solving experience of our careers, if we wait until we get to an easy “risk-free” environment, then we’re going to get nowhere.
The following language came from the Governor’s office earlier this week: There are many reasons why it’s important for schools to be open this fall.
Every child learns differently. Remote learning can be less effective, and it’s important that we provide the highest quality education possible. Not every parent is able to devote individual time and attention to oversee remote learning indefinitely. Social isolation isn’t good for the well-being of kids. They need interaction with their friends and the mentorship teachers provide.
Education promotes physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. Kids battling food insecurity have better access to good nutrition when they’re in school.
At Plainview Public Schools we apply the same standard as most schools when making decisions; What’s best for kids? Well, what’s best for kids is that they be in school! Oftentimes we overlook what is beyond the basic education that kids lose when they are not in school. Many of our students need special services like Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT), Resource, and Speech. Those vital services are lost or severely disrupted when they miss school.
We have a 50%+ Free and Reduced meals population. So essentially, half of our students live in “food insecure” homes. Most of our youngest students were just beginning to take off in their understanding of the reading and writing of the English language and now they have had a 5-month “summer slide”. What is best for kids is that they be in school, face-to-face with teachers, and supported by a variety of safety nets. We can assume a reasonable level of risk and we are taking numerous measures to keep kids and teachers as safe as possible. The alternative, keep kids on an “e-learning/packet” model, is more detrimental to kids than the risk of bringing them all back together. We CAN do this and here are the measures we are planning to put in place at this time to bring kids back to school safely on August 13th.
First, we will slightly alter the morning procedures for dropping students off. Students can not enter either school building until 7:30 a.m.
At 7:30, staff members will be posted at designated doors to check temperatures of students as they come into the buildings. If students are required to come prior to 7:30 a.m., they will have their temperatures checked by their club or team sponsor. Students will also enter through designated doors determined by their grade level. The only exception to this procedure is breakfast. All students coming to breakfast in the morning will enter through the main elementary doors.
We have also spaced out lunches enough to ensure that we can seat students in every other chair in the cafeteria. This will allow for social distancing in an area where students are naturally touching their face and mouths. By doing so, we have some classes starting their lunch at 10:45 a.m. and others not entering the lunch room until 12:30 p.m. You may need to remind your child that even though they have been able to snack at any time throughout the day for the last five months - that is going to change! We are all going to have to work on our “school belly” routine soon!
Another item that has been discussed heavily at each of our administrative meetings, and in the media is masks. Schools in the area have been trying to determine if students should wear masks or if wearing masks causes more issues (health and behavioral).
At Plainview Public Schools we have determined that we will NOT require or discourage students or staff from wearing masks. We recognize the health benefits of wearing masks in public at this time but we also recognize that mandating masks of all students creates a series of problems that we feel will unnecessarily inhibit their experience here at school. If you would like your child to wear a mask, we will be happy to provide a disposable mask for them. If you want to provide your own mask for your student, you must get it approved by Mrs. Thompson or Mr. Schmidt. We do ask that if you are opting to have your child wear a mask all day at school that you start doing some “mask training” at home to ensure masks do not cause a behavioral issue at school.
The last, and possibly most asked question you may have is: “What will happen if there is a positive test for someone in the school building?” This is a question we have asked ourselves, other administrative teams, and medical professionals. The steps that we will take at Plainview Public Schools are:
- Ensure that the positive test result is reported to the administrative office.
- Send communication to all staff and student families in the building of the positive case. This communication will be sent in the form of a text, phone call, and letter to ensure all affected families are informed.
- The administrative team will determine who and for how long a student and potential siblings will be “emergency excluded” from school.
- Continue school as normal with all staff and students monitoring for symptoms.
We will consider these absences as routine as any other illness with school lessons to continue remotely or traditional hard copy assignments being sent home. We are committed to providing a quality education to all students regardless of their needs or the limitations to normalcy and ease of practice that we face.
Please know that this decision was made with the understanding that students will be washing hands more frequently, sanitizing more often, and social distancing when possible. We also understand that our local health department is not able to test an entire school or even an entire class when symptoms are not present and the possibility of exposure is low due to precautions already in place.
Last March, our school staff put together a plan within 48 hrs. to continue teaching and learning and feed 200+ students off campus for the following 10 weeks. We know that we can make adjustments and change directions with any plans we have in place right now depending on how circumstances change. We’ll do everything to communicate in a variety of ways with you and ask that you support us and be prepared to be flexible. If you have any questions or concerns, please call or text any one of your school administrators.