CSD K-12 In-person Learning Update

K-12 In-person Learning Update

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After Spring Break, we will invite additional students to attend in person.

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The week after Spring Break (April 12), we will invite any virtual students in grades K-5 to return in person and the following week (April 19), we will combine groups A and B in grades 6-8 and 9-12. This will be the final change for this school year. This change is made possible through a research-supported change from 6 feet to 3 feet of social distancing, to the greatest extent possible. Families of students currently in person may request to transition to virtual learning if they so desire.

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We have had large numbers of students and staff in person for the last seven weeks and we continue to see success in our operations. Including this week, we have 10 weeks of school remaining. By the end of Spring Break, all employees will have had ample opportunity to receive a full vaccination (two doses for Pfizer or Moderna, one dose for Johnson & Johnson). Given all of that, we will implement one final transition this year at each grade level, as follows:

Grades K-5: Beginning April 12, we will invite any virtual K-5 students to return in person if they would like to do so. We will also facilitate transitions from in-person to virtual if any families desire to make that change. In-person schooling will remain as it is currently with half days, only in the morning.

Grades 6-12: Beginning April 19, we will combine the A and B groups at RMS and DHS, so students attending in person will attend four days per week instead of two days (M, Tu, Th, F). In-person schooling will remain as it is currently with half days, only in the morning, and no in-person schooling on Wednesdays. We will facilitate transitions from in-person to virtual, or vice versa if any families desire to make that change.

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To implement these two changes, we will modify one of our mitigation measures. Beginning April 12 at grades K-5 and April 19 at grades 6-12, we will implement a 3-foot social distancing standard, rather than the current 6-foot standard, to the greatest extent possible. This change is supported by newly released research and is a practice that has been successfully used in other parts of the world for months.

Throughout these transitions, we will continue monitoring the effectiveness of our mitigation measures through tools such as the CSD COVID-19 Reporting Dashboard and will adjust our approach if needed.

Each school will reach out to families to gather additional information to finalize their plans, as well as how they want families to communicate their interest in changing from virtual to in-person or vice versa.

We appreciate all of the employees and parents who provided input to help us with this next phase of learning for grades K-5. Some common themes from these focus groups included: try to keep students with their current teachers or, if that’s not possible, try to structure things so they can go back to their previous teacher; don’t make any changes until all teachers are vaccinated; AM/PM cohorts are not good for anyone; and, fully utilize outdoor spaces to the greatest extent possible. Some of the ideas that were brainstormed in the focus groups and elsewhere are presented below, along with rationales regarding why they were not implemented in lieu of the approach shared above.

“Don’t make any changes, leave things as they are for the remainder of the school year.” Our standard operation is in person, so we need to start by assuming we attend full days in person with no mitigation measures (like pre-COVID) and determine what needs to change from that stance due to COVID risks. We know we can mitigate risks quite effectively now, so we use mitigations to get us as close as we safely can to standard operations. With what we have learned over the past seven weeks, it is clear we can safely invite additional students back to our in person classrooms.

“Have one cohort of students attend in the morning, like they do now, and have new in-person students attend in the afternoon.” We considered having two half-day groups five days per week, but both the teacher and parent focus groups largely thought that was a bad idea. In addition to requiring a complete overhaul of the current schedules for homerooms and specials, it would also introduce a host of challenges for cleaning and sanitation.

“Attend 7-days on and 7-days off, with two groups switching.” This approach would cause students currently attending 5-days per week to lose half of their in-person time and is unnecessarily going back rather than forward. It may also be difficult for families to implement since some weeks their children would be in school and some weeks they would not.

“Invite in person only those students who meet a criteria of need, or invite in person only those families that chose in-person flex in December.” Because we feel we can safely invite back any students who wish to return, these options were not necessary. We are also implementing many different interventions for students who need additional support, whether they are attending in person or virtually.

“Extend the school day so current in-person hours are not decreased but students attend 2-days instead of 5-days each week.” This would require additional staff and/or additional payments to employees to cover the extra hours so is not feasible. It also has similar concerns to the 7-day cycle described above.

“Incorporate additional students by adding outdoor classrooms.” We continue to look for additional ways to utilize outdoor spaces, and our facilities department stands ready to partner with SLTs and PTAs to implement ideas they may have. We are not comfortable with using an outside space as a full-time classroom, however, due to numerous safety and security concerns related to weather, uninvited visitors, etc.

“Begin offering full days of school, not just half days.” We explored this option in depth because full days of schooling are our standard, pre-COVID operation. We do feel we could safely implement full days but doing so would require (1) an exception to our mandatory mask policy to allow for eating lunch, which has been the number one concern of teachers and school COVID teams throughout this pandemic, and (2) considerable changes to our current schedules causing significant disruption for a relatively short time period. We considered implementing this even if only for the last several weeks in order to work out issues we may experience this fall, but we decided the pros do not outweigh the cons. We intend to open in the fall five full-days per week, with most if not all of our current mitigation measures in place. We are working hard on our plans for fall and will be sharing more details about that in the coming weeks.

Finally, we’ve received inquiries asking whether we would consider making the week after spring break a virtual week like some other area school districts are doing. We have decided against this for several reasons. First, we are confident in our extensive mitigation measures and their effectiveness. Second, we recognize the temptation that a week of virtual schooling would present for many families in extending the spring break another week resulting in a negation of the purpose for which some districts are staying virtually. Finally, we look forward to welcoming as many students back in person as soon as possible and do not feel there is a need to take one of the seven weeks after spring break for that purpose.

Each school will reach out to families to gather additional information to finalize their plans, as well as how they want families to communicate their interest in changing from virtual to in-person or vice versa.