Glynn County Schools has developed a working draft of its return-to-school plan, which currently operates according to guidance for opening schools in a community with minimal to moderate spread of COVID-19.
The school system is in the process of creating plans to begin a new school year. The plans fall within three categories of community coronavirus spread — low to no spread, minimal to moderate spread or substantial spread.
School officials expect the community to fall under the minimal to moderate spread category.
All school plans, no matter the level of spread, include some basic precautions, like providing hand sanitizer and frequently cleaning spaces in school facilities.
As the spread levels rise, so does the number of new school procedures.
The working draft of the reopening plan is subject to change as information changes, said Valerie Whitehead, executive director of strategy and innovation for Glynn County Schools. She shared the highlights of the current plan with a return-to-school task force group that met Tuesday at Brunswick High School.
The working draft also was presented Tuesday to the Glynn County Board of Education and will be shown today to all school principals, who are tasked with developing individual site plans.
More than 200 stakeholders have taken part in the planning process so far, said Scott Spence, superintendent.
“Everyone wants fast information,” Spence said at the task force meeting. “Everyone wants us to have a decision. But when you start involving stakeholders, when you start involving parents, it takes a while. That process takes a while.”
The school system plans to offer in-person instruction but has provided parents the option to have their children continue distance learning when the school year begins Aug. 11.
A virtual form is posted online for parents to fill out if they’d like to commit to having their children participate in distance learning. The form must be submitted before 6 p.m. Sunday.
Those who select the virtual learning option will have to commit to at least nine weeks of at-home learning for elementary and middle school students or one semester for high school students
Before the school year begins, virtual open houses will be hosted by each school.
Accurate and current signage will be posted on all school facilities so that people will know what status of community spread the school system is working under.
Visitors and volunteers will be limited to people who are essential. Families and other visitors will need to schedule appointments before entering school buildings.
After-school programs that operate in Glynn County Schools facilities, like the Boys & Girls Club, will abide by the same protocols required during the regular school day.
Sick or symptomatic students and staff will be asked to stay home.
Schools will provide hand sanitizer and personal protective gear for staff to the extent that supplies allow. Masks will be required for staff and encouraged for students.
“We will also allow staff and students to bring hand sanitizer and face masks or coverings to use from home,” Whitehead said.
Each school will create an internal committee that will identify vulnerable populations within the school and will determine safety plans for students and the staff who work with them.
Staff will also need to be trained in numerous new areas, including how to help students adjust to coming back, special cleaning and sanitizing practices for certain areas and how to promote a positive welcoming environment amid these new protocols.
Out-of-county professional learning will now be subject to district approval.
“We’ve all been learning that many agencies and organizations are offering virtual opportunities for professional learning, so those wouldn’t be impacted by that,” Whitehead said.
Many everyday school activities also will likely look different this year.
The school system’s nutrition department is working to develop new protocols for meal distribution procedures, which will include grab and go breakfasts in the morning for students.
Families who opt to sign their students up for virtual learning during the first part of the school year will still be able to receive breakfast and lunch from the school.
“Even though they’re participating virtually, it’s not the same as our closure in the spring,” Whitehead said. “So those families that are not eligible for free and reduced lunch still have to maintain a lunch account under virtual learning if they intend to come and get meals from Glynn County Schools.”
The plan is to have weekly pickup opportunities for five days’ breakfasts and lunches.
Transportation to and from schools also will come with new rules. Plans to send out a poll asking parents if they intend to use school transportation have been postponed, Whitehead said, but that survey will be released soon.
Furniture in classrooms will be arranged to create as much distance as possible between the desks of teachers and students. Larger spaces in schools may be used for certain learning activities to promote further social distancing.
Parents are encouraged to use their Infinite Campus accounts. All back-to-school information may be sent out virtually. Free and reduced lunch cost applications will also soon be available online.
Virtual learning will not be the same experience as parents and students had in the spring, Whitehead said. Those who sign up for virtual learning may receive instruction and support from staff at a different school than the one a student is zoned for.
“There will be expectations for daily interactions,” she said. “We will track attendance for virtual learning just as we would for face to face. Discipline will be handled for virtual learning environments. And there will be new learning provided through virtual opportunities. In the spring, because of the timing, it was a great deal of review.”