CSD Road Map to In-Person Learning

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Greetings CSD Community,

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We created a careful plan based on science and data.

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All employees will resume working from their school or building by October 12. ECLC and Frasier Birth-3 students and students with IEPs served in the adapted curriculum program will return to in-person learning starting October 12. Over the three weeks starting November 2, the other 97% of our students will begin returning to in-person learning through phases based on grade levels. We plan to offer all families the option to keep their child(ren) engaged through virtual learning. We are monitoring multiple community health indicators in anticipation of a return to school, which for most students will not be until November. If the data suggest it is unsafe to return to (or remain in) school, we will adjust our plans accordingly. We are also shifting the days missed from the canceled fall break to December. Students will begin their Holiday Break on December 14.

Rigorous mitigation strategies will remain in place, including mandatory masks for all staff and students, frequent handwashing and respiratory etiquette, random temperature checks, social distancing to the extent possible, ongoing cleaning and disinfecting regimen of CSD facilities, cold plasma air filtration at all school buildings, and contact tracing in collaboration with the local health department.

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In July, we shared that our decisions for bringing students and staff back to our buildings would involve a balance between mitigating the virus’s spread in our schools with the potential harm that school closures have on our students’ mental and physical wellbeing. This continues to be central to the next phase of return.

As you review the information below and digest our plan for returning staff and students to school buildings, you will notice changes and enhancements compared to plans and frameworks we previously shared. For example, we moved away from the “four quadrants” model we shared in the “road map” to opening schools at the July Board of Education meeting, and we incorporated new resources and guidance from the CDC and other experts in evaluating our readiness to return students and staff to schools.


Throughout this pandemic, virus data and expert recommendations changed and will likely continue to change. The plan outlined below is based on current data and guidance provided by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Department of Health. If there are significant changes in virus data and/or guidance from health agencies that indicate it would be unsafe for students or staff to return to (or remain in) school, we will adjust our plans.

Over 4,000 stakeholders responded to our latest survey. The feedback provided there is very helpful in understanding various perspectives. When asked to respond to the statement “we should transition to a hybrid or full in-person learning environment within the next month or two, if virus levels remain at current levels or below,” parents and students were evenly split between agree and disagree, and teachers and staff were also split but leaned more toward disagree. When asked if “virtual learning is as valuable for students as in-person learning,” all groups leaned toward disagree, with parents and students expressing the strongest disagreement.

The CDC recently provided a table of indicators and associated thresholds. Those indicators include cases per 100,000 persons, percentage of positive tests, and the ability to implement key mitigation strategies. They also provided secondary indicators to assist in decision making, looking at items like percent change in cases, hospital utilization, and community outbreaks. As of September 18, DeKalb County has a rate of 117 cases per 100,000 persons (higher risk) and a 7-day average of 4% positive tests (moderate risk). These values have dropped over the last several weeks. If community mitigation measures continue with fidelity, they are likely to continue to drop. We are ready to implement all five of the key mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC (lowest risk). Based on those primary indicators, we are currently in the yellow range of that chart and likely to move toward green in the coming weeks. On the secondary indicators, current inpatient bed utilization is at 78.6% (lowest risk), ICU bed utilization is at 81% (moderate risk), inpatient bed utilization by patients with COVID-19 is at 7.3% (lower risk), and we know of no localized outbreaks (lowest risk). We will continue monitoring these data and will adjust our plans if needed.

Please remember that controlling the spread of the virus is everyone’s responsibility, and we need everyone in the community to do the right thing for our students to return to in-person learning: wear a mask in shared spaces, wash your hands, exercise social distancing, and quarantine when ill or exposed to someone who is ill.

Decision 1: When should we return?

Based on the data above, we believe it will be safe for students and staff to return in person to school in the coming weeks and months. However, as shared previously, we will continue monitoring these data, especially leading up to November when most students will return, and will adjust our plans if needed.

In addition to mitigation efforts in the community, CSD will continue with our own rigorous emphasis on mitigation strategies and resources at our facilities. The following mitigation strategies are in place and monitored at each CSD facility: mandatory masks for all staff and students, frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette, random temperature checks, social distancing to the extent possible, ongoing cleaning and disinfecting regimen of CSD facilities, and contact tracing in collaboration with the local health department. CSD also deployed several enhancements to our buildings to aid in mitigation, including physical barriers, additional handwashing stations, HVAC systems that maximize fresh air circulations and remove pathogens, and electrostatic fogger disinfecting machines.

Decision 2: How should we return?

We began accepting proposals from staff to resume small-group in-person activities and will continue with that process until it is no longer needed. On October 12, students will begin a phased return to in-person instruction with College Heights ECLC and Frasier Center birth - age 3 students, students with IEPs served in the adapted curriculum program, and CSD-sponsored learning pods. This first phase will run through October 30. Starting the week of November 2, additional grades will begin in-person learning each consecutive week. The graphic below provides additional details on this phased return to in-person learning. In-person learning will occur five days a week for full school days. After careful consideration of survey data that indicates a significant proportion of families plan to continue with virtual learning, we determined we do not need to offer an A/B alternating-group scheduling option.

Each school has a COVID Readiness Team operationalizing mitigation and readiness protocols specific to each school. COVID Readiness Teams have representatives from all stakeholder groups.

Timeline and Phases:

Changes to the Schedule

The November 2 professional learning day has been distributed to various Fridays, depending on grade level. The Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday prior to each of the five phased returns, the returning students’ teachers will have three days to prepare their classrooms and learning materials. They will not teach virtual lessons on those three days. For example, Oct. 7-9, staff in the birth-3 year old program and special education adapted curriculum teachers will work in their classrooms, and their students will not participate in online learning with their teachers those days. Schools will share a detailed schedule with families closer to the time we transition.

A fully virtual option will remain available for all students. We will communicate separately the method and deadline for families to indicate whether their child(ren) will participate in-person or remain virtual. As we transition to in-person learning, instruction may look different depending on the grade level or other program needs. We expect most lessons will be taught in a “concurrent classroom,” meaning teachers will not plan dual lessons. Teachers will deliver live instruction from the classroom to both students who are in-person and at home. Our teacher leaders, instructional coaches, and district leaders will support our classroom teachers in using the most effective research-based practices to fully engage students regardless of if students are in the classroom or at home.

Beginning October 12, we will offer CSD-facilitated learning pods – monitored spaces for students to participate in virtual learning – to current CSD students on an as-needed basis. Space will be limited, and a fee may apply. Additional information and application will be available soon.

Holiday Break will now begin December 14 to accommodate the elimination of fall break. Students and teachers will not have school that week, and employees will work that week following the same schedule they would have during fall break.

Next Steps

In the coming weeks, we will provide information for families to select whether they will return to school in person or continue with virtual learning.

As you read through this information, you probably thought of several questions about your individual situation of which may include details about quarantine and isolation protocols, communication regarding confirmed or presumed positive cases, and school and classroom closures. Protocols exist for these and will be shared as we get closer to returning in-person. We also started a Q&A page where we will post questions and answers over the coming weeks. You can find that page at www.csdecatur.net/opening2020.

As promised, we are sharing our updated plans for returning in person on our previously stated deadline so families and staff can have more certainty for what is coming. We will share more specific details about these plans in upcoming district town hall meetings that will be scheduled a bit closer to bringing staff and students back. We will also share additional details about how to apply for the CSD learning pods. Local School COVID-19 Mitigation teams will also continue to meet and develop additional school-specific mitigation and readiness strategies.

For more details:

If you have additional questions, please visit the In-person learning Q&A page where we will post questions and answers over the coming weeks. You can find that page at www.csdecatur.net/opening2020.