PENN LAIRD — Rockingham County Public Schools will open on Aug. 31 for the 2020-21 school year after the School Board approved a reopening plan that includes delaying the school year by one week.
The School Board approved the reopening plan during its meeting Monday at Spotswood High School following an updated presentation by Superintendent Oskar Scheikl regarding the transition to bring students back into the classroom.
After a work session on July 7, Scheikl said the board had received hundreds of comments regarding the proposed reopening plan, which would get most students in the classroom two days a week, with younger and more at-risk students getting in the classroom four days a week.
The school division has been formulating a reopening plan since school was canceled for in-person learning in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal was to get as many students in the buildings while also keeping everyone safe.
Mitigation strategies outlined in the plan include health checks for staff and students, face coverings for middle and high school students when 6-foot distances cannot be maintained and face coverings for elementary school students when feasible.
Students will be required to where a face mask when not at their desk. Scheikl said lanyards are being purchased by the district for students to keep their masks on.
Face coverings will also be required of staff and on school buses. Only one student is permitted in a seat except for siblings. Buses will be sanitized after each run, and families are encouraged to transport their children on their own if able.
To begin the school year, students will attend school four days a week, with Wednesday not being a school day but instead a day for collaboration, professional learning, teachers planning for remote learning and outreach. Desks will be spaced 6 feet apart to allow for social distancing.
Prekindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade students will attend school the remaining four days of the week. There will also be consideration for students with disabilities, individualized education programs and students who are English language learners to also attend in-person school four days a week.
Students in grades second through 12th will be on a rotation and attend school in-person only two days a week.
The rotation will be determined by the students’ last name. Group A will consist of students with last names starting with letters A-K and group B will be students with last names that start with L-Z. Group A would attend in-person school on Monday and Thursday, while group B would go Tuesday and Friday.
The length of the school day will remain unchanged from previous years, and while a traditional school day on Wednesdays is no longer expected, students will still have assignments to complete during those days. Grades will be assigned to work.
Scheikl said bagged meals will be available for students on distance-learning days and meals will operate under regular school year rules.
Today, a survey will be sent out to parents to see which option of learning they would prefer for students, as well as their transportation preferences. Scheikl said responses will need to be returned by Sunday. If a student opts for 100% distance learning or in-person learning, they will have to commit for one semester, with exceptions for extenuating circumstances.
By July 24, schools will notify families of any changes needed to balance out class schedules.
With seven weeks remaining until the beginning of the school year, conversations will continue to be made as to whether more changes need to be made prior to Aug. 31.