By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — Warsaw Community Schools’ Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert provided updates on the school corporation’s reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year during a press conference on Wednesday, July 8.
WCS’s plan details nine factors regarding health and safety protocol, as well as what changes are being made to the classroom and school environment. The changes are in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed all Indiana schools from mid-March to the end of May this year. During that time, remote learning was practiced, where students used electronic devices for schoolwork.
eLearning vs. in-school
On Tuesday, Aug. 18, school will begin in-person for students, with an eLearning option available but limited.
“The online option is predominantly for students that have physical at-risk conditions or for extenuating circumstances that would keep a student from coming back and feeling at ease in a physical setting,” said Hoffert.
Hoffert said eLearning would not be similar to remote learning that occurred at the end of the 2019-20 school year since teachers will be returning to work physically in schools.
“They won’t be able to spend that intensive time on online learning,” said Hoffert on teachers educating students.
eLearning students will also not be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities.
“Online learning is alternative learning,” said Hoffert. “We want to make sure people feel safe and comfortable, but it will not have some of the options that an in-classroom, physical setting will have.”
- Visitors will be limited to a school’s main office or kiosk. Volunteers will not be scheduled until further notice.
“One of our pride points is welcoming the community into our school,” said Hoffert. “We still want to do that, but it will look different.”
Contactless drop-off tables will be established at schools for parents dropping off items for students. In place of large convocations, there will be digital presentations.
- Professional development will be provided for staff on hygiene and sanitizing procedures as well as screening measures.
“We’ve already started a lot of these training procedures with our support staff over the summer,” said Hoffert. “As our teachers come back, that will be a big part of their first teacher day back.”
- For elementary schools, a scheduled hand washing protocol for each building has been established. For secondary schools, hand washing will be required throughout the day. Additional hand sanitizer will be available at all schools.
“We realize that those are simple procedures, but we are putting them in a schedule,” said Hoffert. “We know that hand sanitizing is important and students are always touching their faces, we know that’s (hand washing) a big part of healthy procedures.”
- Symptomatic students waiting for pickup will be provided a separate space and must wear a mask until leaving the building.
- For elementary students, restroom, recess and lunch breaks will be scheduled by classes and groups. For secondary students, there will be expanded passing periods to allow for proper hand hygiene and reduce congestion in hallways.
“This has been one of the biggest worries we’ve had from parents,” said Hoffert. “We still have to make sure some things happen inside of schools, recess is one of them. Students need art, music, P.E., they need those areas as much as we can possibly provide in a safe manner. And students need interactions with other students.”
- For elementary students, there will be assigned seating in the classroom, cafeteria and bus. For secondary students, students will have assigned seats on the bus and in the classroom, with established zones in the cafeteria. For the entire school corporation, on buses, siblings will be seated together. In the classroom, students will face the same direction as much as possible.
“It is hard to social distance in a school environment,” said Hoffert. “Our goal is to limit, but we still have to be able to hold class.”
- Masks are recommended. Masks are encouraged in the hallway, restrooms and small group instruction. Masks are required on the bus, in the clinic and where space is limited.
“We highly recommend students bring a mask and we highly encourage them that especially in high-traffic areas that they utilize those masks,” said Hoffert.
Cafeteria & Water Bottles
- Students should bring their own filled water bottle. Following CDC guidelines, drinking fountains will be unavailable. Alternative contactless filling stations will be available. At this time, no visitors or outside food delivery will be permitted.
“For places that we do not have contactless water bottle fillers, we will be putting up different alternative water sources,” said Hoffert.
- Parents can partner with WCS by monitoring their child’s health, reinforcing hygiene practices and by providing a mask and hand sanitizer. Parents can also visit the schools’ online resource page for parents.
Physical education classes will be held outside when possible. Until further notice, no external field trips or convocations will occur.
Hoffert also encouraged parents and families to perform self-checks on students before sending them to school for the day.
“That might be taking temperatures in the morning,” said Hoffert. “That might be asking them on a daily basis, ‘Do you feel okay?’ We ask parents to take extra caution this year. That will be what helps us keep the school year going in-person.”
More information regarding the school corporation’s reopening will also be released through warsawschools.org as the registration process for the 2020-21 school year continues.