WELLSBORO — The 2020-21 school year will look very different, and will rely on a partnership between the district, parents and community to be successful.
Wellsboro Area School District administrators hosted a virtual town hall meeting July 28 to unveil plans for the coming year and answer questions from parents.
The start of school will be postponed by about a week to Monday, Aug. 31, to give the district time to prepare, said Superintendent Dr. Brenda Freeman. Classes will be longer, the school day will be shorter and masks/face shields are mandatory.
The district will offer three instructional options: five-day a week classes, remote learning or Wellsboro Online Academy. Parents may also choose to unenroll their child for homeschooling or cyber charter school, she said.
All students are enrolled in five-day a week classes unless parents contact their child’s school and choose an alternate method. The plan limits student movement and encourages use of outdoor space. The district will provide one mask for every student; disposable masks will be available in case a student forgets the mask. Face shields are permitted except on buses.
In kindergarten to fourth grade, students stay in the classroom, with teachers rotating among classes, including special classes such as art and music.
In fifth through eighth grade, students will have two courses in the morning, followed by lunch and two afternoon classes. Students will remain in a core group with teachers moving among classes.
At the high school, the eight-course school year will have four courses offered in the fall semester and four in the spring. Block scheduling will have 82-minute periods. Class movement will be staggered to reduce the number of students in the hall and teachers, rather than students, will rotate among classes
The remote learning option will mirror the in-school option, including the teacher providing instruction, so that, in case of shutdown or student illness, there is no interruption or lag in learning, Freeman said.
Students enrolled in the online academy will have different teachers and a slightly different curriculum than that provided in school or remotely. Students can work ahead or take longer to complete a section, Freeman said.
The board will approve the Continuity of Education Plan at the Aug. 4 meeting. Freeman is asking parents to commit to one of the three options by Aug. 7 so the district can prepare materials, arrange classrooms, schedule busing and prepare for remote and online learners. Some parents have already made that decision through conversations with district personnel, she said.
Parents may change which option their student uses or may choose different options for their children. The district will work with families to meet their needs, Freeman said.
With the longer class periods, teachers are encouraged to give students breaks, to allow them to walk around and remove masks when possible.
The school day will end around 2:15 p.m. to give teachers a common planning time at end of day and allow janitorial staff to perform additional cleaning and sanitizing. Students will also be involved in cleaning and sanitizing their hands and space using household grade items.
Parents will be asked to answer a set of health questions daily. Freeman had administrators demonstrate a touchless temperature scanners to be used by students and staff on busses and at school entrances, as well as the three-sided plexiglass partitions being built for each desk.
If classrooms permit a distance of six or more feet apart, students will be able to unmask, Freeman said.
Students with a temperature of 100.4 or above cannot ride the bus and parents will be asked to remove the student from the school as soon as possible. Any student with symptoms of coronavirus will be moved to an isolation area, which will be cleaned before another student uses it.
Busses will have assigned seats, with family members sitting together and loading from back to front to limit contact between passengers. Face masks are required; face shields may not be used on the bus.
For lunch, elementary students will eat lunch in their room or go outside, weather permitting.
Middle school and high school students will have assigned seating to more easily conduct contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 positive case. The district will use the cafeteria, extra gyms, hallways, unused classrooms and outdoor dining areas.
Freeman encouraged parents to contact her at 570-724-4424, 570-724-0303 or email email@example.com.