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Westside school district releases draft of plan for fall classes

University leaders across Florida discuss what classes will look like in the Fall. (MGN)
University leaders across Florida discuss what classes will look like in the Fall. (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 10:56 AM CDT
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Westside Community Schools is planning to institute status levels for its students and ask families to screen students' temperatures as it returns to a full-day Monday-Friday school year.

The plan issued Monday, which the district called a draft, also addressed the use of face masks, calling it "a pretty divisive topic so far."

The district said it will only recommend masks — as a best practice and not a legal obligation — when social distancing isn't possible, or when in indoor public settings, according to the planning document.

"We have to make decisions as an organization that serves the needs of 6,000+ students and approximately 1,000 staff members," the report states. "We know that we won’t be able to make everyone happy with the numerous decisions that have to be made."

Masks would be required, however, in those places the district couldn't provide adequate social-distancing.

"If school was in session today, we would require masks," the document states. "We don't see this changing by Aug. 18th."

The plan calls for Westside classes to start — with "numerous safety measures and social-distance initiatives in place" — Aug. 18 for pre-Kindergarten through seventh grade as well as ninth-graders; and for eighth-graders and 10th-12th grades to begin Aug. 19. New this year, however: Elementary schools will start their day at 8:30 a.m. — 10 minutes earlier than previous years.

Revisions to the plan would come every four to six weeks, the document states.

"What we do in October might be different than what we do in August," it reads.

The current plan would stand until Sep. 30, the document states. The district also leaves room for the possibility of classes from home.

"There is always the possibility that we will have to close back down and again utilize 'extended campus/at-home learning' but we want to do everything in our power to avoid that if at all possible," the plan states.

Preventative measures
SCREENING MEASURES:

Parents would need to pre-screen their students at home, checking temperatures and noting cough or other symptoms.

Students and staff are not to report to school if symptomatic and are urged to call a doctor.

"We are also looking into potential ways to possibly conduct screeners and student temperature checks at our schools each day but are not sure if this will materialize or not," the plan states. "It is very doubtful that it will but has not been totally eliminated yet."

FACE MASKS:

Acknowledging that face masks do pose a challenge, the district would provide three reusable neoprene/cloth masks to each student and two to each teacher. Breaks would also be implemented to help with consistent use, according to the district plan.

"If/where/when masks are required, we will take hourly mask breaks in social-distant settings," the plan states.

PE and music classes may be exceptions for mask use as well, according to the plan.

Students on buses — and drivers — will be required to wear masks and sit in assigned seats.

CLEANING & SANITIZING:

According to the district planning document, students and staff will be required to sanitize their hands upon entering buildings, classrooms, hallways, and common spaces, with a 70% alcohol sanitizer available throughout the facilities.

Shared and frequently touched surfaces, such as desks, door handles, and restrooms, would be cleaned and disinfected by staff on a regular basis, the document states.

Bus surfaces will get wiped down between routes.

"High-touch surfaces" — including door knobs and handles, push plates and crash bars on doors, automatic door openers, lightswitches, handrails, stairway doors, drinking fountains, vending machines, ATMs, tables and chars in common areas, refrigerators, microwaves, and bathroom and kitchen surfaces and fixtures — will be sanitized frequently.

Students may bring water bottles, but no "mouth-drinking" will be allowed at fountains.

SOCIAL-DISTANCING:

Cafeteria schedules will be staggered — and in non-traditional eating spaces, including outdoors when possible — in order to improve social-distancing. Any food served will be done by staff in gloves and masks who are behind plexi-glass. Lunches may be brought from home, but no sharing will be allowed.

Passing periods will be adjusted to ensure time for cleaning protocols, the plan states, and recess will be outside as much as possible, and mask-free, with social-distance measures in place.

No congregating would be allowed at pick-up and drop-off points, visitors will be restricted — no lunchtime guests — and required to wear masks.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS:

Staff are not allowed any professional travel outside the state at this time, the document states, and any staff who need to travel outside Nebraska — even to a bordering state — is asked to notify their supervisor.

Positive-case protocols

Classrooms and/or buildings may be closed for a minimum of 24-48 hours should a student test positive for COVID-19, the plan states, noting that this particular part of the plan is not final.

"Communication to families will be similar to that of MRSA and Whooping Cough," the document states. "The student will be sent home and all classroom families will be contacted" within two to four hours.

In that situation, the classroom would also be deep-cleaned.

Infected individuals are allowed to return to school 10 days after symptoms started and three of those days must be fever-free without medication, the plan states.

Anyone quarantined can return 14 days after the last contact with a positive case.

Color-coded status levels

In the plan, the district also laid out a color-coded status in its plan, with different objects for green, yellow, and red statuses:

GREEN: All students are in school

for the traditional school day following a traditional school year, using social-distancing guidelines and safety measures.

"As of today, this is what we are planning on" for the start of the year, the document states.

YELLOW: About half of students return to school

for the traditional school day following a traditional school year, using social-distancing guidelines and safety measures.

In this case, students would be in one of two groups, alternating days they are in school, following as consistent a schedule as possible with children in the same family following the same schedule.

"We feel it could help families to know that their children will be in school every Monday and Tuesday and therefore need to make arrangements for each Wednesday through Friday instead of an alternating day schedule that mixes and matches different days during different weeks," the document states.

On those days students are out of school — "at-home/extended campus days" — schools would use video instruction.

"YELLOW is the most challenging option to pull off from the district perspective and our least desired option, by far," the document states.

RED: No students are on campus

, and staff may or may not be required to report to the school.

In either yellow or red status, "the at-home/extended campus days will provide more direct, video instruction and social interaction than this past Spring," the plan states.

It's also possible that status levels might not be the same for each grade-level grouping.

"There might be scenarios where K-6 is in green while 7th-12th might be in yellow," the plan states.

Family survey results

Of 887 responses from student families, more than half — 52% — said "they're coming back to school no matter what." On the flipside, 12% said they plan to stay home. Just over a third, 36%, said they would come back "as long as social distancing was in place."

This is a developing story. Stay with 6 News for updates.