ALLPORT — Scenarios for the start of the 2020-21 school year were thoroughly discussed at Monday night’s West Branch Area School Board meeting, as Superintendent Michelle Dutrow told the board what current plans due to the current coronavirus pandemic.
Dutrow said they were required by the state Department of Education to submit scenarios on how the district would conduct school should they be in the green phase — which they are currently in — and the yellow phase. Dutrow also provided a plan should the area return to a red phase as it was at the onset of the pandemic in March.
It was stressed that if the state designates the county in a green or yellow phase, it doesn’t necessarily mean the school district would be doing the same.
“We can use that green plan while the state is in a green phase — which we currently are — and we also understand from the Department of Health and the Department of Education that we might also use our green plan — our full reopening — if the state goes to a yellow phase if our local COVID situation warrants us to be able to stay open,” Dutrow said.
Dutrow when consulting the state zip code data, said they currently have a “very, very low” amount of people that have tested positive within their district.
“So we hope to keep it that way,” Dutrow said.
The green phase that they plan to currently move forward with would be a “full opening” where parents can also choose to keep their kids in the district’s cyber school program.
“We all understand that could change depending on the pathway and course of the virus over the next five weeks,” Dutrow said. “But our recommendation would be green, as of today.”
They would look at decreasing numbers on buses that could be accomplished due to the amount of cyber school students, as well as numerous families indicating to the district they would rather transport students to school themselves.
Dutrow said the surveys they collected so far — which are done by parents/guardians — account for over 500 students, as they currently do not have results for a little over 200 students.
“Overwhelmingly in the 90th percentile, parents are indicating to us that at this time, they are looking for their child to return to school, with a small number looking at the cyber option,” Dutrow said.
When asked how many cyber students they’re predicting if the district fully opens, Dutrow said estimates could be anywhere from 75 to 100 students.
Social distancing measures would be taken and it includes spacing out in classrooms, the cafeteria, masks for building transitions, etc.
Elementary students would have all specials teachers come to the classroom instead of the classroom going to the teacher, with the exception of physical education.
If the district is in yellow, they would implement a staggered schedule where students will go to school two days a week — either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday — with the other days being done online. The exception to this would be students in grades pre-K to First Grade and special needs students, as they would continue to attend school each day.
As far as wearing masks, Dutrow said they will try to put things in place that will allow students to not have to wear masks all day.
“You’ll need to wear them on the bus and they’re going to need to wear them in the hallways when they’re transitioning to go to lunch or to the restroom,” Dutrow said. “But when they’re in class actually engaged in class, as much as possible in the district, we want to be able to take those masks off.”
Dutrow said they weren’t required to do a red phase plan but did one anyway, which includes full cyber school for everyone.
“It’s not what we did in March, April and May,” Dutrow said of the red phase plan, in which all grades/attendance would be taken and students would be time logged.
All students would also get either iPads or Chromebooks and 10 community hotspots would be set up for internet access. Those still unable to access the internet would have packets provided as needed.
“We still have a lot of little details ... to iron out and we’ll continue to work on it,” Dutrow said.