A draft of the re-entry and recovery plan for the Monroe County Community School Corporation was presented at a Board of School Trustees meeting Tuesday. The plan offers detailed guidelines on self-screening at home, instruction and health measures at school and mental and emotional support for students and staff.
The plan was formulated by the MCCSC Re-Entry and Recovery Committee co-chaired by Markay Winston, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and Andrea Mobley, assistant superintendent for human resources and operations.
The committee’s 39 participants represent teachers, students, parents, administrators, local pediatricians, Monroe County Board of Health, Bloomington Hospital, IU, and numerous community partners, according to the plan. Winston said the committee surveyed 900 to 1,000 members of the community, including more than 400 high school students.
Modes of instruction
There will be three scenarios of instruction planned for the 2020-21 school year: in-person instruction, online academy and intermittent online learning.
Students will have the option to either attend in-person classes taught by their classroom teachers with social distancing measures applied or enroll in the online academy taught by other specially hired teachers.
“We do not expect, nor will we allow, students sitting in front of a screen for five and six hours at a time,” Winston said. “That’s not what our online academy’s about. Our teachers understand that, and there will be a variety of learning experiences that dictate what that looks like.”
Students enrolled in the online academy will need to commit to a minimum of one whole semester. At the end of the semester, the option to go back to in-person instruction will be available.
In the event of school closures or individual students being absent due to having to self-quarantine or other illnesses, students will utilize the intermittent online learning option where they will participate in video-conference meetings in groups with their classroom teachers. They will also work independently.
In-person school day health measures and support
Under Center for Disease Control and Prevention and local health department guidelines, families must complete daily screenings of their students, including checking temperature and making sure children and teens do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Staff members are also required to self-screen daily.
If students show COVID-19 symptoms, parents must first inform the school principal and then contact their medical provider, and the student must stay home.
Students and employees should not go to school for 14 days if they were recently in contact with a person with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, someone in their home is being tested or they recently traveled to a high-risk destination, as defined by the CDC.
Transportation and logistics
Families are encouraged to walk, bike, drive or carpool their children to school and are allowed to walk their children to the outer school building door. Nonessential guests will not be allowed inside school buildings.
MCCSC will provide bus transportation for students. Buses will be sanitized frequently, drivers and monitors will wear face coverings and windows will be open if weather permits. Students will be assigned seats and will be required to wear face coverings since 6 feet of social distancing will not be possible. Routes might be divided into shorter ones.
After school ends, dismissal times may be staggered. Schools will arrange procedures for bus and parent pickup. Parents will not be allowed into buildings, and students must continue to wear face coverings.
Before and after school care
Before and after school care will still be offered, but there will be limited capacity at each school due to social distancing concerns.
Health and social distancing protocols
Students and staff must wear face coverings at all times unless appropriately socially distanced as determined by the teachers, according to the plan. Teachers will receive training on identifying COVID-19 symptoms. There will be one face covering provided for each student and staff member. They will also be allowed to wear their own face coverings.
Brandon Shurr, board member representing District 7 of the Board of School Trustees, commented that such protocols place an unfair burden on teachers and bus drivers who will need to assume further responsibilities such as monitoring students’ health. He proposed that face coverings be made mandatory with no exception, but other board members pointed to special cases. Martha Street, assistant secretary and board member representing District 3, said to make masks mandatory would be hugely inconvenient for students with hearing impairments who will then not be able to read lips.
Scheduled hand-washing breaks will be enforced throughout each day. Students will also wash their hands upon arrival at school. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers will be available. Shared school supplies will be limited.
Should a student exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, parents or guardians will be contacted for pickup, and the student will wait in a separate area.
To enforce social distancing, desks will be rearranged, the capacity in common areas will be limited and large spaces such as gyms may be repurposed as classrooms. Outdoor spaces will be utilized for instruction. Recess times will be staggered, playgrounds disinfected and students required to wash hands before and after recess.
Breakfast and lunch will be grab-and-go at designated areas, and lunch times will be staggered. Students with food allergies will receive accommodation.
Technological, mental and special needs support
Winston said the digital divide has been exacerbated by the pandemic, and MCCSC is trying to minimize that divide as much as possible. Such efforts will include Wi-Fi parking lots set up in the lots of Bloomington High School North and South, Jackson Creek, Tri-North and Batchelor middle schools and Summit, Highland Park and University elementary schools. There will also be buses with Wi-Fi in strategically located neighborhoods, MiFi hotspots for families lacking adequate internet access and iPads for all K-8 students and laptops for all 9-12 students who will bring those devices home daily.
All students will receive regular instructions on how to access their learning management systems such as Canvas. Students with special learning needs or disabilities will be given special instructions.
Winston said that social and emotional learning will be the top priority upon schools reopening. Measures to support students' and staff’s mental health include daily and weekly social emotional and equity lessons and support and access to social workers or counselors. Teachers will also go through professional development and training on strategies for decreasing student anxiety and trauma-informed care.
“We feel that we’ve got to tend to the mental health needs before we tend to the academic needs,” Winston said.
Extracurricular and co-curricular activities
Protocols for school activities generally apply to extracurricular and co-curricular activities, with coaches/sponsors trained to identify symptoms.
“Facial coverings are strongly recommended for students, coaches and sponsors when possible,” the plan says.
Field trips will be virtual experiences only, and out-of-state trips will not be approved at this time.
In the event that a school has a confirmed COVID-19 case, the local health department will provide guidance on the appropriate course of action. Schools may close briefly for disinfection, the duration of which depends on guidance from the local health department. Confidentiality of the COVID-19 patients will be maintained in accordance with Americans with Disabilities Act and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Mobley said.
If a student or staff member tests positive, he or she must notify the principal immediately. Under CDC and local health department guidelines, the student or staff member can only be allowed to return when 72 hours have passed without fever and without applying fever-reducing medicine, other symptoms have improved, at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared or the person has tested negative twice 24 hours apart and he or she is able to provide a note from a medical provider saying the person can return to school.
Upcoming key dates
Enrollment for the online academy will begin on or before June 30. School principals will share school-specific plans with parents by July 15.
The Early Learning Center will open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m July 6 through 31 according to the plan. Normal hours of 6:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. will resume Aug. 3. Hoosier Hills Child Care Center will also reopen Aug. 3 under normal school-year hours.
Preschool classrooms at the elementary schools will return Aug. 5, according to the plan.
The draft plan is open to comments, which can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Any and all recommendations contained within this plan are subject to change pending new guidance and direction received from the CDC, Monroe County Health Department, or the Indiana Department of Education,” the plan says.
The plan is available on the MCCSC website.