By Will Fairless
Lee County Schools
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.
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.
Beauregard High School
Regarding opening up the school, Beauregard High School Principal Richard L. Brown Jr. released the following statement on July 29.
“Beauregard students and parents, like most of you, we have waited all summer for answers pertaining to the start of the school year. As many of you are aware, the Lee County Board of Education did pass an amended schedule and start dates for the 2020-2021 school year. The school start date was moved from Aug. 12 to Aug. 17. All students will start the year remotely. The target date for the re-opening of campus for the students who opted to return to campus is Sept. 9.
“I know you are anxious about student schedules, course offerings, senior portraits, Chromebooks and even campus orientation. What is further complicating plans for these items is the construction progress on our campus. Our new buildings have yet to be completed — none of our teachers or staff have been able to move into any of the new facilities.
“As the construction project draws to an end in the coming days, we will be able to release answers pertaining to the start of the school year. We pray for your health and safety, and we continue to ask for your patience and understanding.”
Opelika City Schools:
Students will now return to Opelika schools on Aug. 12, rather than the fifth as originally planned.
Students and their families were able to choose whether to return in-person or virtually though the choice cannot change until the end of the semester.
“As we monitor the current COVID-19 rates in Lee County and consult with local health officials, we feel that this is the best decision for our students and staff,” said Opelika Superintendent Mark Neighbors.
The five extra days were gained by eliminating fall break on Oct. 12 and 13, eliminating the first day of Thanksgiving break on Nov. 25 and by eliminating the first two days of Christmas break, Dec. 21 and 22.
The second semester of the school year remains unaltered.
Students should check their temperature each day before coming to school and if it is higher than 100.4, they should not come, Opelika City Schools said in its Reopening Plan.
The system is preparing to supply face masks to students at the start of the year and social distancing may not always be enforced, the plan said, due to factors such as classroom size.
Students who choose virtual learning will not be able to participate in extracurricular activities.
Virtual learning students will receive an OCS Chromebook that they will be required to use.
A student or faculty member who contracts the coronavirus will need to quarantine for 14 days.
Auburn City Schools:
Auburn City Schools is preparing to open on Aug. 10 with both virtual and in-person learning.
Families were given the choice of which option they wanted for their students with the chance to transition to remote learning any time during the semester, according to Auburn City Schools Return to Learning Fall 2020 plan.
However, if a student chose virtual learning, they can only switch to in-person after the first semester ends.
In order to participate in virtual learning, students must have internet access and a computer. If they do not, they will be contacted by the school, the plan said. Students are also eligible for an iPad from the school.
Unfortunately, not all courses can be offered remotely.
“However, all courses and electives are not available through ACCESS, including some Career Technical courses and advanced courses,” the plan said. “Families will be contacted by school counselors about solutions for elective courses that are not offered through ACCESS.”
Students who choose the virtual learning option will still be able to participate in in-person activities outside of school hours, however, such as sports.
In-person learning will require changes to protect against the coronavirus. For instance, employees will wear face shields, masks or covers while at school, the plan said.
Additionally, Gov. Kay Ivey’s amended safer at home order and mask ordinance specifies that students in the second grade or above will be required to wear face coverings through Aug. 31.
Sanitation will also take place to kill germs.
“Custodial staff will sanitize doorknobs and handles routinely with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered disinfectant,” the plan said. “Classroom teachers will be provided with bottles of hand sanitizers and surface-cleaning sanitizers that will be refilled as needed throughout the semester as long as supplies are available. Students will be encouraged to wash hands and/or sanitize regularly throughout the day, especially before and after transitions to different parts of the building.”
Desks will be social distanced as much as possible, the plan said, and tables will be replaced by desks if possible.
If students are diagnosed with the coronavirus, they will need to quarantine for 10 to 14 days. Students or faculty who come in contact with a person with a positive coronavirus test will also need to quarantine.
School buses will continue to run, though parents are encouraged to drive students to school, the plan said.
“With great enthusiasm, we always look forward to this exciting time of year in Auburn City Schools,” said Auburn City Schools Superintendent Cristen Herring. “Following an unexpected and unprecedented interruption in the spring and after a busy summer of preparing to reopen, our team of dedicated educators eagerly anticipate the opportunity to welcome students back.
It is expected that this school year may present unique challenges but we believe it promises to be one of our best yet. It is with passion, perseverance and various partnerships that we look forward to the continued level of excellence in education that our community is accustomed to and deserves.”
The full plan can be viewed here: https://www.auburnschools.org/cms/lib/AL01901372/Centricity/Domain/2294/ACS%20Plan.pdf.