The Bay-Waveland School District Board of Trustees — during a special meeting on Tuesday — approved the district’s plan for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
The district’s COVID-19 committee — comprised of teachers, administrators and board members — came up with the current plan, which is “tentative” and will make “appropriate adjustments as additional information, guidelines, and recommendations become available,” the plan outline states.
According to the guidelines, there are two learning plans:
Plan A: Will utilize the “regular” schedule for BWSD with modifications to accommodate current social distancing guidelines.
Plan B: Will serve for students with compromised immune systems or parents who have a fundamental reasoning for not sending their children to school. Under this option, students will utilize Google Classroom in sync with the normal school day. Exams and tests will be proctored in a safe location.
BWSD Board President Casey Favre — who also served on the COVID-19 committee — said that there is also a third option, which is homeschooling, for parents who do not wish to send their child to the BWSD.
As far as social distancing guidelines for meals, recess, and bus schedules, BWSD Superintendent Dr. Sandra Reed said that administrators are meeting with each principal to discuss cafeteria measures.
Reed said that she is also speaking with First Student about making some route adjustments to meet social distancing guidelines. The plan also states that students will be “encouraged to wear masks on the bus” and a “strict seating chart will be utilized on the bus.”
Reed also added that some of the information she’s been reading recently states that “careful consideration is being given to changing the social distancing requirement to three feet instead of six feet.”
According to the district’s plan, prior to the students’ return in August, the classrooms will be cleaned and items without “academic value” will be removed in order to allow for a more thorough cleaning and social distancing.
“Healthy Habits” baskets filled with wipes, hand sanitizers, and masks will be available in each classroom, the plan states. Students will not share materials or supplies and seating charts will be maintained in classrooms.
Parents in attendance Tuesday asked questions about the district’s plan, including how many students will be in a classroom.
“A lot of this will depend on how many students take which option,” Favre said. “By and far, we’re going to be very stretched to do true distance.”
Favre also referenced an article from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“The general belief in this article was that children contract this virus differently than the adults,” Favre said. “And that social distancing isn’t as big of a deal for kids as it for adults. In fact, their recommendations for mask wearing go back to some of the very primitive recommendations we had at the beginning, which was mask wearing might make children in particularly, more susceptible.”
Favre said that the district’s committee decided that “masks are allowed and masks are encouraged.”
Temperature and symptom screenings will also be performed upon students’ arrival to school every day. There is also a school nurse on each campus, Reed said.
Another community asked if the district had a “plan B” in place should Mississippi or Hancock County become a “hotspot” for COVID-19.
“I think the plan B is beyond our control,” Favre said. “If we have to go to a plan B, meaning that in school lessons are just not an option, I think it will be taken out of our hands all together and we’ll be 100 percent distance learning. And we won’t have a say. If that happens just here in BWSD, meaning that we see a spike in Hancock County and it’s related to the return to school, then local and state health officials will shut this down. Or it could be an across-the-board process that says schools are closing. I don’t think we, as a school board, will have a say at the point.”
Reed said the district also plans to host a series of parent meetings where the ins and outs of distance learning will be discussed.
With regards to curriculum this year, Reed said that the state superintendent has made it “clear” that there will be “no changes to graduation requirements, no changes to the testing process this year.”
“Her exact words from a superintendent’s only call this past week, were ‘superintendents, I want to be very clear, there will be no waiver of testing this year,’’’ Reed said.
The district is “aware that a probability exists that BWSD will have one or more students and/or staff members that test positive for COVID-19 during the school year,” the plan states.
The plan includes a 14-day quarantine from school and school-related activities and will require a doctor’s recommendation to return to school. The student will participate in digital learning.
“Parents will be notified of those that have been in close contact with the individual with the positive test result,” the plan states. “This notification will be via email and a hard copy mailed home. Close contacts with the COVID-19 positive individual will also be quarantined from school and school-related activities for 14 days. Parents of students in groups with the positive students will also be notified via email and hard copy letter and encouraged to closely monitor any symptoms the student may develop. Groups are defined as classes, teams, bus routes, etc.”
Reed said that school officials also spoke with Mississippi’s State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who recommends using common sense and medically-sound methods of decision making.
For instance, Reed said, that if one fourth-grader tested positive, the district would contain the fourth-graders or shut down only one grade level, not the entire school district.
The district is compiling back-to-school packets for parents, which contain all pertinent information related to reopening, and plan to distribute them as early as the end of this week or next week.
In other action:
Following an executive session, the board unanimously approved to amend Reed’s current contract to reflect an annual salary of $132,500 for the remainder of the contract period, which is two years. Reed’s previous annual salary — upon her hiring in April 2018 — was $125,000.
The board scheduled a 2020-2021 budget hearing for Monday, July 13 at 5:30 p.m.
The next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 20 at 5:30 p.m.