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June 24, 2020
Parents and Guardians,
I hope this letter finds you and your family well. Our team at Elkins School District has been working tirelessly to plan for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, and that task has not been without challenges. Our number one priority has always been and will continue to be the health and safety of our students and staff members. With that in mind some changes will be made to procedures, and this letter will detail those procedural changes by explaining what onsite education will look like in Elkins Schools when we start classes in August. Also, you will see an explanation of what virtual school provided by Elkins School District will look like. This letter will be lengthy, but it is important that you read in its entirety in order to understand your options in the upcoming school year as we as a district continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All plans, restrictions, and requirements for onsite instruction during the 2020-2021 school year have been formulated under the guidance of two entities. The Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) have combined to issue directives to schools in order to plan for reentry. The document guiding schools is officially known as the Arkansas Ready for Learning Plan, and it can be found on the Arkansas Department of Education’s website. Our district is using this guide to plan for reentry. However, it is important to remember that this is a fluid situation, and sometimes guidance and requirements change. It is possible that new directives could be issued later this Summer which could facilitate changes to what Elkins School District will require during the 20-21 school year.
As of this moment, Elkins Schools will be in session as normal for onsite learning and instruction beginning August 13, 2020. The following list are items that our planning committee has addressed, and we feel it is paramount that this list is communicated to you:
- All cleaning and disinfecting procedures have been evaluated and modified accordingly. Cleaning and disinfecting will be increased with a specific focus on disinfection of commonly touched surfaces multiple times per day. We have invested in additional large scale disinfection devices that will disperse ionized chemicals that are completely safe to be used around children, but will also kill the Coronavirus.
- Hand sanitizer dispensers have been ordered and will be installed in every classroom. Also, free standing hand sanitizer dispensers will be placed strategically in common areas throughout the building to allow for frequent use by students and staff.
- Classrooms will be rearranged in order to maximize the distance between student learning stations. Our goal is to get the recommended six feet of social distance between each student’s learning station. This will not be possible in certain classrooms due to the size. In those classrooms as much distance as possible will be allotted between students.
- Facemasks will be strongly recommended for students in grades 4-12. Facemasks will be strongly recommended to be worn by students in these grades when social distancing is not possible during times like transition between classes. Facemasks will not be required as Elkins School District is following the recommendations of DESE and ADH. We are encouraging all students to bring their own facemask with them to school to be worn when physical distancing is not feasible. Facemasks will not be worn during PE class, recess, or any other time when students are physically exerting themselves. Social distancing will be encouraged during these times.
- We will be modifying building lunch schedules in middle and high schools and recess schedules in primary and elementary schools. In essence, there will be more lunch periods and staggered recess periods in our lower grades than we have had in previous years. Students in grades K-5 will still have 40 total minutes of recess per day. These changes will reduce the number of students gathered in one place at one time. Lunch table capacities will be limited so that fewer students are sitting in close proximity to one another at the lunch table.
- Cafeteria procedures are being modified as well. Elkins Schools will provide badges to all students that can be scanned in the cafeteria at the point of sale. This will prevent the need for students to manually enter their student lunch ID number on the keypad. Also, there will be no self-serve for students. All food handling and serving will be handled by staff members. Cash handling procedures are being altered as well to make the environment safer for students and staff.
- All common use water fountains will be inactivated when school begins in August. Each school building is now equipped with water bottle/cup filling stations. We are asking each student to bring a refillable water bottle each day in order to access the water filling station.
- Parents will be encouraged to screen your child(ren) each day before sending them to school. Students should be checked for fever and kept home if the temperature is greater than 100.4 F. Students showing fever or other symptoms will be sent home from school.
- All large student gatherings/assemblies will be suspended indefinitely. Examples of this would be any building-wide assembly such as a pep rally.
- Bus transportation will function normally and all routes will run as usual. Social distancing will be applied when possible, but it is important to note that distancing will not be possible on many of our buses due to the amount of riders. Facemasks are strongly recommended to be worn by all students in grades 4-12 while on the school bus.
- If we are notified that a student tests positive for COVID-19 then all current ADH guidance and requirements will be followed.
We recognize the fact that some parents may not feel comfortable sending children to school even though many precautions are being taken to provide the safest school environment possible. In order to meet the learning needs of those students Elkins School District will offer a full service virtual school in the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. Many of you became familiar with the aspects of virtual school during the spring when we were required to shut the school doors with the rest of the schools in the state. If a parent chooses the virtual school option in the coming year the following list of comprises what can be expected:
- Elkins School District will provide a school issued Chromebook computer and charger, certified teachers that will deliver instruction and oversee learning, and all supplemental computer software access to learning programs that an onsite student would have access to.
- One important difference between this past Spring and the upcoming school year will be the workload that students will be expected to complete. Based on DESE guidance we backed down requirements of students and only covered essential standards. In most cases students needed 60-90 minutes per day online to complete their work to finish out the past school year. This will not be the case for 20-21. Virtual students will be expected to complete the same activities and work that onsite students do which means that students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade can expect to be working on the computer 3-4 hours per day while students in grades six through twelve should expect to put in 4-5 hours of work time per day. These are projections based on the average learner. Advanced students may finish in less time than projected while struggling learners may take much longer to complete the work.
- Students will use Google Classroom as the primary learning management system. Recordings of lessons will be uploaded regularly during the week so that virtual students are getting the same instruction as their onsite peers. There will be multiple Zoom/Google Meets offered weekly for students to have live interaction with their teacher(s) and ask questions as needed. Students will submit work through Google Classroom online based on due dates and all normal grading systems will be applied.
- Based on DESE requirements this past school year we had to modify grading practices during the final quarter. Some students did not complete all of their assigned work, but did not see lower grades due the fact that DESE mandated that students grades could not go down from the third quarter grade. This will not be the case in 20-21. Normal grading practices will be followed, and if students do not complete assignments they will receive failing grades.
- Students that choose virtual school will still be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, but those students must attend onsite for at least one class period per day. The one period per day rule is an Arkansas Activities Association requirement.
- Students that choose virtual school will be allowed to make a change and attend onsite school during the school year, but will only be allowed to do so at the beginning of each grading period. These dates are October 14, January 7, and March 15. Parents must notify their child’s building principal of the intent to change two weeks in advance of the end of the current grading period.
- Parents should consider the reliability and speed of their home internet service when making decisions as virtual students will need reliable and accessible internet to complete activities and assignments.
- Students who attend virtual school will still be required to be on campus later in the year to complete all applicable state mandated assessments.
Elkins School District will be sending out a required survey early in July. We will be asking you to submit your choice of onsite or virtual school to us by July 10 so that we can make final master scheduling plans in advance of the first day of school on August 13. Another contingency that we are planning for, and that parents and students need to be aware of is that onsite instruction could change very quickly during the school year. If we experience an outbreak of COVID-19 in the district it is possible that we could shut down all onsite activities and classes for one to two weeks to mitigate the spread. If we do this all students will continue to attend virtual school. The transition from onsite to virtual and back to onsite will be as seamless as possible.
We are generating a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on our district website which will be posted soon. As you prepare to make the best decision for your student I would encourage you to visit the FAQ page for more information. The page will be updated frequently with questions and answers that are posed to us in the weeks to come. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have a specific question about the coming school year.
As you can see, we will be modifying many of our onsite procedures to make the environment as safe and healthy as possible, but much of the school day will look like it has in the past. It is not realistic to think that students can wear masks all day and be kept six feet apart at all times. Frankly, that is not feasible or practical. However, we will be encouraging and facilitating as much physical distancing as possible and strongly recommending masks when physical distancing is not possible for grades 4-12 in order to make the environment as safe as possible. I hope that this document has answered many of the questions you have about the upcoming school year. No matter what the format looks like we will continue to deliver a world-class education to our students.
”Committed to Excellence”