By Elaine Pinckney
For the past two weeks, we have been assessing our readiness for bringing back our kindergarten students to four-days-per-week of in-person instruction. This assessment included a review of our ability to maintain social distancing and all other Department of Health and Agency of Education guidelines, as well as our capacity to provide stable and sufficient staffing.
To that end, we sent a survey to our kindergarten families to understand what, if any, changes families might make if we were to institute this change. We held a Q&A session with Dr. Leah Costello for our kindergarten teachers, principals and school nurses. The results of the survey, as well as our review of state guidelines, all indicate that we are ready to welcome our youngest students back for four days per week, beginning on Oct. 5.
We will be undergoing this same level of assessment, review and planning for phasing-in, over the next month, our grades 1-4 students. This process will begin with our Grades 1 and 2 students. A survey will be going out to these parents, and during the next two weeks, faculty and administration will conduct a thorough assessment of the following criteria:
— There is no or very low COVID activity in our communities
— Our ability to staff our classrooms remains stable and sufficient
— Our routines are efficient, effective and any trouble-spots are easily worked out
— We are able to maintain compliance with Department of Health and Agency of Education guidance
— We are confident in the Department of Health’s ability to respond to any positive cases in our school community.
Assuming a successful re-entry of our kindergarten and grades 1 and 2 students, and our continued ability to meet all criteria, we would turn our focus to grades 3 and 4. Here is the tentative timeline for this to happen:
— Oct. 6, kindergarten students return Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
— Oct. 19, grades 1-2 students return Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.
— Oct. 26, grades 3-4 students return Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.
These dates are tentative. If at any point we are unable to meet the criteria we’ve set, the dates could be moved out or even canceled.
Finally, I know there is some confusion around the Secretary of Education’s announcement that schools are now in phase III of reopening. In reality, there are very few changes to the guidance between phase 2 and phase 3. The social distancing requirement — 3 feet for students age 10 and under and 6 feet for our older students — has not changed. This does not mean that students must be socially distanced at 3 feet or 6 feet at all times. It does mean that we should do our best to minimize the number and amount of time that our students are in closer proximity and add other layers of protection when they are. For example, wearing our masks, sitting side-by-side instead of face-to-face and being vigilant about hand hygiene all help to mitigate the transmission of the virus. The main areas of change with going into phase 3 are the clearance for our sports teams to hold competitions (go Redhawks!) and the relaxing of the rules for use of our gyms and cafeterias.
In Phase II these spaces could only be used as classroom overflow and only if absolutely necessary. In Phase III, these spaces may be used as long as we are still able to follow all other guidelines (e.g. social distancing).
Elaine Pinckney is superintendent of the CVSD.