By Will Fairless
The Lee County School Board approved the “Tentative Path to Reopening Schools” at its July 14 meeting. The plan was presented by Jason Wright, the assistant superintendent and director of career technology at Lee County Schools.
According to Wright, the decisions for opening were made in accordance with five guidelines:
1. We will be transparent. We will share what we know when we know it.
2. We will do what we think is best for students, families and employees.
3. We will listen and adapt as circumstances change.
4. We will always make safety a priority.
5. We will be decisive.
The Alabama Department of Education recommended that a map from the Alabama Department of Public Health be used to determine the status of schools with regard to COVID-19.
The map designates four categories for the potential conditions of a given area (e.g. Lee County).
Level IV, or Red, shows a growing, widespread outbreak with many undetected cases. Level III, Orange, will show where many cases exist and spreading among the community, where undetected cases are likely. Level II, Yellow, shows a moderate number of cases that exist where most of them are from a known source. Level I, Green, shows cases that are rare enough that contact tracing can be used to control the virus.
The Tentative Path to Reopening Schools includes the following changes, among others, to the way schooling has typically been conducted.
• There will be no lockers used during the upcoming school year.
• Face coverings are strongly recommended for anyone on a Lee County school campus; face masks will be provided to every student and employee and face shields will be provided to every employee and students from kindergarten through 3rd grade.
• Face coverings will be required on school buses.
• Large gatherings will be limited based on the level of the pandemic, as will visits to the schools for people who are not students or faculty.
• All meals will be picked up in the cafeterias and taken back to the classrooms to be eaten there. Neither students nor employees will type in their lunch numbers on keypads, they will instead have laminated name badges with barcodes to scan for payment.
• Each school site will have a designated area where students who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be isolated until their parents can be contacted. The room will be outfitted with chairs and flooring that can be easily sanitized and will contain an air purifier.
• The signs in schools will identify adjusted maximum occupancies, how foot traffic should flow (students will be instructed to walk along walls without touching the walls), social distancing expectations and what mask usage is required.
• Desks and tables will be distanced and will be sanitized at least once a day.
• Any student or employee diagnosed with COVID-19 will be kept away from the school for at least 14 days; this individual can return to school after testing negative, being symptom-free and receiving a written notice from a healthcare provider.
The school system also recommends that parents use private vehicles to transport their children to and from school and that they don’t allow their children to attend school if the children are exhibiting any of the following symptoms: a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, runny nose, sinus congestion, trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, abdominal pain, stomach ache, diarrhea or vomiting.
Virtual learning may be universally implemented or used with only a portion of the Lee County student body. Students from kindergarten through 8th grade will use Google Classroom for virtual learning and students from grades 9 through 12 will use Edgenuity, ACCESS or both.
Every Lee County school student will be provided a Chromebook to use for remote learning. Lee County Schools will also provide parents with instructions for using Google Classroom, and those parents will have the support of teachers who are well-instructed in the program.
To see the full presentation that was given to the Lee County School Board on July 14, go to www.lee.k12.al.us/cms/lib/AL02210054/Centricity/Domain/4/Path%20to%20Reopening%20Schools%20-%20Lee%20County%20Schools.pdf.