The plans for reopening, which were put together by a district task force, include detailed information to ensure the safety of students and staff, Deputy Superintendent Tabitha Branum said at a July 22 board meeting.
“I think it's really important to know that there are really a whole lot of specifics in the blueprint for our staff to follow,” she said.
The face-to-face learning plan includes daily health screenings for staff and students in addition to mandatory masks for grades 3-12, Branum said. Students in pre-K through second grade are encouraged to wear masks at all times but will only be required to use face coverings during dropoff and pick-up and while in hallways. The district will provide masks for students who do not have one. It will also have a supply of face shields for students and faculty.
School days will be extended by 10 minutes to accommodate staggered arrivals and departures. Elementary school days will begin at 7:50 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m.; junior high schoolers will arrive at 8:15 a.m. and leave at 3:40 p.m.; and high school students will arrive at 9 a.m. and depart at 4:20 p.m.
Elementary students move to and from classrooms together and only one group will be in the hallway at a time, Branum said.
Junior highs and high schools will operate on an AB block system, meaning students will go to different classes on alternating days to lessen the amount of students in one place at any given time, Branum said. Block scheduling requires class periods to be extended, so this format will accommodate continuous instruction in classrooms, she said.
“While we started the conversation based on the concern around reducing transitions and safety, really the bulk of our conversations [have been] around the instructional benefits of having an AB block,” Branum said.
All classrooms will be equipped with hand sanitizer and disinfectant, said Sandra Hayes, assistant superintendent of district operations. Custodian staff will clean schools before they open and after they close.
Students in elementary schools will continue to use the cafeteria. The district is installing plexiglass shields to allow students to interact while maintaining a safe distance, Branum said.
“They are still going to be able to talk, and they are still going to be able to share their day, but they will be able to do so in a safe way while they are eating their lunch,” she said.
Junior high and high school students will eat in the cafeteria, gyms, libraries and other spaces, Branum said.
Students who ride buses must sit one per row unless they live in the same household. The seat behind the driver will remain empty, and transportation staff will disinfect the bus after each route, Hayes said.
The district is also rolling out RISD Virtual School, which is nothing like the e-learning done in the spring, Stone said. A director will be hired to oversee this aspect, she added.
“We fully acknowledge that the at-home learning in the spring was literally set up within two weeks and by our staff members without any preparation and certainly without any professional development or any training,” Stone said.
Attendance will be taken every day and students will be held to the same requirements as they would for face-to-face instruction, Branum said.
Students in pre-K through third grade will have a combination of teacher-led instruction and self-led activities, Branum said. Parents will pick up assignment packets and drop off completed papers at their home campus. Students in grades 4-12 will have structured courses throughout the day led by teachers. The district has also set up a technology help desk to support students in e-learning.
“The expectation [for virtual school] is that it will be rigorous and that our students will experience growth in their learning,” Stone said.
Virtual school students will not lose their seat at their home campus, she said. They will also have access to meals and opportunities to attend on-campus experiences and spaces, such as the campus library.
If coronavirus data indicates substantial risk, the district will transition all students back to virtual learning. A blended model will be used in the case of moderate risk, Branum said.
Plans for the fall will be released to the public Friday, July 24. The district will start virtual school for all students Aug.19 and currently plans to open campuses for face-to-face instruction Sept. 8.